The United States Department of Education has dismissed a complaint filed in May by a coalition of more than 60 Asian-American groups accusing Harvard University of discriminating against Asian Americans and other ethnicities and races in its admissions process.
The complaint, made by the Asian American Coalition, was closed on June 3 because of an on-going lawsuit filed in November by Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. that lodges the same accusations against Harvard University, a U.S. Department of Education spokesman told NBC News in an email Tuesday.
Yukong Zhao, one of the chief organizers of the coalition that sent the complaint, said he was undaunted by the U.S. Department of Education’s decision.
“We are going to continue to pursue our equal education rights,” Zhao told NBC News. “We have a lot of other options, and we are not going to be slowed by this.”
In May, the Asian American Coalition filed complaints with both the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice, asking that they require Harvard to “immediately cease and desist from using racial quota or racial balancing” to admit students, and to "ensure that Harvard and other Ivy League schools will never again discriminate against Asian Americans or applicants of any other races."
This was not the first time Harvard has been accused of using race in its admissions process. As evidence of bias, some have argued that the number of Asian-American students admitted annually hasnot kept pace with an overall increase in the Asian-American population. But others, includingKhin Mai Aung, formerly of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, havesaid the accusation that Harvard uses quotas is one not rooted in fact.
Harvard University said in a statement Wednesday that Harvard College has a strong track-record of both recruiting and admitting Asian Americans to its school. Over the last decade, the percentage of admitted Asian Americans has increased from 17.6 percent to 21 percent, the statement said.
Among the 2,048 students admitted to the class of 2018, 20 percent were Asian, 13 percent Hispanic, 12 percent black and 2 percent Native American or Pacific Islander, according to the college's admissions statistics.
"Harvard College strongly believes that a class that is diverse on multiple dimensions, including on race and ethnicity, transforms the educational experience of students from every background and prepares our graduates for an increasingly pluralistic world," the school said.
Betty Hung, policy director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a civil rights group, said she welcomed news that the U.S. Department of Education had closed the complaint against Harvard, but added that she remained troubled over the lawsuit’s intent to end affirmative action at Harvard and other American universities.
“Affirmative action policies help to level the playing field and to promote diverse university learning environments that are essential in our multiracial and multicultural society,” Hung, a 1993 Harvard College graduate, told NBC News in an email.
Harvard did not respond to a request seeking comment Tuesday. In a written statement in May, Harvard University General Counsel Robert Iuliano said the school’s admissions policies were “fully compliant with the law.” He added that Harvard College has a strong track-record of both recruiting and admitting Asian Americans to its school, with the percentage of admitted Asian Americans increasing from 17.6 percent to 21 percent in the last decade.
Chris Fuchs is a freelance journalist based in New York. His articles have appeared in Foreign Policy and the Taipei Times and in Chinese on ETToday.net, a popular Taiwanese news website.