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Why it might have been better if the Supreme Court had let colleges have ‘quotas’

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08.10.2019

It might have been better if the Supreme Court had allowed minority admissions “quotas” for colleges and professional schools when it had the chance 40 years ago.

That’s one way to read Judge Allison D. Burroughs’s Sept. 30 opinion upholding Harvard’s race-conscious undergraduate admissions process against a lawsuit from Asian American plaintiffs. They asserted that Harvard puts a de facto floor under African American and Latino admittances — at the cost of creating an unlawful ceiling on Asian Americans.

Asian Americans got in to Harvard’s classes of 2009 through 2018 at a suspiciously consistent rate of 18 percent to 21 percent of each class, even as more and more of them applied annually. Burroughs acknowledged that admissions officers consistently awarded these students lower ratings for “personal qualities,” somewhat offsetting their usually high test scores and grades.

But, she ruled, lower subjective assessments reflect insufficiently glowing high school recommendations or some other unknown factor, not bad faith by Harvard, whose admissions officers swore they used race only as a “plus factor,” and gave each applicant “individualized,” “holistic” review.

In fairness, Burroughs and Harvard were following convoluted Supreme Court doctrine on affirmative action, beginning with the pivotal 1978 Bakke case.

In the mid-1970s, the University of California at Davis medical school set aside 16 of 100 places in each class for African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos and........

© Washington Post