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Harvard’s Asian Quotas Repeat an Ugly History


Harvard’s Asian Quotas Repeat an Ugly History

The Wall Street Journal October 9, 2019
EducationHigher Ed

Jews, long disfavored by elite universities, might find Judge Burroughs’s reasoning familiar.

A popular college ditty during the 1910s began:

Oh, Harvard’s run by millionaires,

And Yale is run by booze,

Cornell is run by farmers’ sons,

Columbia’s run by Jews.

If you thought that sort of bigotry at elite universities was a thing of the past, you might want to reconsider in light of a federal district court ruling last week on Harvard’s admissions policies. It seems the only thing that’s changed over the past century is the group being targeted for exclusion.

In 1914 about 40% of Columbia’s students were Jewish. By 1918 effective quotas had reduced their numbers to 22%. In the 1920s Harvard and Yale would follow Columbia’s lead. Harvard’s freshman class of 1925 was nearly 30% Jewish. The next year it fell to 15% and remained thereabouts for the next two decades.

Today’s concern is the overrepresentation of Asian students on elite campuses and the sneaky ways that colleges go about capping their numbers. In 2014 Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit, sued Harvard, alleging that the school had passed over Asians for admission because of their race. The plaintiffs presented data showing that Asian applicants needed SAT scores that were about 140 points higher than their white peers to be accepted. And they argued that the percentage of Asians admitted to Harvard was suspiciously similar year after year despite dramatic increases in the number of Asian applicants and the size of America’s Asian population.

Continue reading the entire piece here at The Wall Street Journal (paywall)


Jason L. Riley is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, and a Fox News commentator. Follow him on Twitter here.

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