Director of the Yale Asian American Cultural Center Joliana Yee staunchly opposed race-blind admissions in an Oct. 16 statement responding to the Students for Fair Admissions lawsuit — which alleges that Harvard unfairly discriminates against Asian-American applicants in admissions.
In an email addressed to the “Asian and Asian American community at Yale,” Yee, an Assistant Dean of Yale College, called the suit a “threat … [to] the future of higher education.” The email followed an event hosted by the Yale Asian American Students Alliance, titled “Let’s Talk About Affirmative Action.” In light of the Harvard trial, the AACC board also told the News that the center would soon host an event in support of affirmative action policies.
“I’m hopeful that as you grapple with affirmative action and details of the case come to light, you will come to see how a race-conscious, whole-person approach to admissions is necessary to strengthening our communities of learning and a step in the right direction for improving access, equity and inclusion in higher education,” Yee wrote in the email.
In the statement, Yee encouraged students to “engage with the details of this case.” She also responded to the claim that Asian-American applicants to Harvard score “slightly lower on… ‘personal rating’.” She wrote that Harvard’s scoring system is based on several factors that do not consider race, including “intended major and career interests, hometown, school, family and community contexts of achievement.”
In court, Students for Fair Admissions contended that Harvard’s personal rating practices are discriminatory because a 2013 Harvard Office of Internal Research report found that Asian-American applicants were categorized by adjectives such as “shy” or “quiet” and were often grouped together with other applicants of the same race.
In responding to the comments in court last week, Harvard Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William Fitzsimmons said, “We abhor stereotypical comments.”
“This is not a part of our process,” Fitzsimmons added.
Yee stressed that while some have raised concerns about a personality test, “such a metric does not exist” in Harvard’s admissions criteria.
Yale Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jeremiah Quinlan, told the News that Yale “does not rate or rank students based on a personality metric.”
Three students interviewed by the News said they appreciated the open statement from Yee.
Lillian Hua ’21 said that while the AACC is “essentially an arm of the formal University,” it is also distinct from what students would expect from University administration because of its active collaboration with students.
“The cultural houses were founded in result of student activism and continue to be very student-driven, only now with relatively recent addition of professional staff as our fearless leaders, so I think for Dean Yee to have taken the position she did is very much in line with the spirit of the AACC and legacy here of POC activism for a more multiracial admissions process,” Hua added.
Hua said that Yee’s statement reflects an ongoing conversation in Asian-American spaces about addressing race-conscious admissions and its effects on Asian-American communities.
Kayley Estoesta ’21, head coordinator of AASA, said that while Asian Americans are indeed people of color, affirmative action is a complicated issue and “many within this imperfect racial umbrella term, certainly have economic and social privileges.” She added that she stood by Yee’s statement and stressed the need to “support equitable access to higher education.”
“Asian Americans aren’t your wedge between privileged white classes and people of color,” said Estoesta. “For Yale especially, this also means discussing other admissions policies such as legacy admits and athlete admits. I do also believe that Yale should take a position on this issue, as well as the other slew of issues that have arisen in the past few weeks.”
Former Harvard University President Drew Faust is expected to testify in court this week.
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