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Opinion: Harvard Needs to Address Concerns on Bamboo Ceiling


Opinion: Harvard Needs to Address Concerns on Bamboo Ceiling

Source:Harvard University/Wikipedia

Being accused of giving lower personality ratings to Asian-American applicants, Harvard University has been questioned for its commitment to defending diversity. Finding this revelation alarming, Jun-Han Su, PhD Candidate at Harvard and columnist at Crossing, calls for emphasis on 'true inclusion.'



Opinion: Harvard Needs to Address Concerns on Bamboo Ceiling

By Jun-Han Su and Hao Wu (Harvard University)
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Editor's note:  A discrimination lawsuit against Harvard University has drawn considerable discussions among International students and Asian-American communities. Jun-Han Su, PhD Candidate in Physical Biology at Harvard University and a columnist at Crossing, has called for concerns of racial stereotyping in Harvard's admissions process. This op-ed is translated into Chinese and published on Crossing under the permission of the writers.

In a recent high-profile court case, Harvard University was found to have consistently marked Asian-Americans significantly lower on metrics of “positive personality” compared to other racial groups in its admissions process.

As Asian-American students at Harvard, we find this revelation alarming and strongly believe a thorough investigation is warranted to see whether implicit bias and racial stereotyping may have played a role. We think this is essential to ensuring the integrity of the admissions process, as well as creating a truly inclusive campus environment where the experiences of every member of Harvard’s diverse student body are acknowledged and respected.

A person’s character gets at the core of what it means to be human and has the unfortunate history of being abused to deprive marginalized groups of rights to participate in our society. By suggesting that an entire racial group is inferior in “positive personality” is hence not only hurtful, but insulting to the Asian and Asian-American community. To be clear, we are open to potential differences between various applicant groups, but we firmly believe the University has a moral obligation to demonstrate in a rigorous and transparent manner that its marking process was free of racial bias due to the gravity of its implications and potential for misuse.

Last week, in advance of the release of relevant court documents, President Drew Faust sent an open letter stressing the University’s commitment to defending diversity and denying that Harvard admissions discriminates against Asian-American applicants. In addition, she warned that the plaintiffs in the forthcoming lawsuit will seek to misconstrue Harvard’s admissions process in order to advance a divisive agenda. However, the letter, which was light on details, failed to mention or provide a convincing explanation as to why Harvard admissions officers has been consistently rating Asian Americans lower on metrics of "positive personality traits” such likeability, kindness, and being widely respected.  

While we appreciate the value of diversity and understand that the University has the right to defend its values, we find President Faust’s approach problematic and insensitive to the experiences of many Asian and Asian-American members of our community. Many of us and our forebears immigrated from countries where censorship is commonplace, and some were even politically persecuted for simply voicing their thoughts or fighting for their rights.

The impassioned language used in President Faust’s letter may have been intended to rally support for the administration’s cause, but is eerily reminiscent of the political propaganda used by authoritarian regimes to invoke fear in dissenters. In particular, suggesting that anyone who is worried about racial stereotyping playing a part in the admissions process, however legitimate their concerns may be, has to deal with the full force of the University and even veritas itself - is chilling and antithetical to the values that form the cornerstones of our democracy. 

We believe that true inclusion is only possible when the voices and experiences of all members of our community are heard and respected. Only in this way, can we realize the dream pictured in President Faust’s letter, where we fulfill ‘the promise a world made better by an assumption revisited, an understanding expanded, or a truth questioned—again and again and again.'

This article presents the opinion or perspective of the original author / organization, which does not represent the standpoint of CommonWealth magazine.

Additional Reading

The Dilemmas Those "Asians" Really Face
How I Tried (and Failed) to Become an Internet Celebrity in Taiwan and China 
Speaking English Does Not Mean Going Global

features more than 200 (still increasing) Taiwanese new generation from over 110 cities around the globe. They have no fancy rhetoric and sophisticated knowledge, just genuine views and sincere narratives. They are simply our friends who happen to stay abroad, generously and naturally sharing their stories, experience and perspectives.  See also CrossingNYC.