For a group of institutions that espouse egalitarianism, the Ivy League certainly does not hesitate in skirting the law to perpetuate white domination.

The Asian American Coalition for Education has recently garnered media attention for its views on college admissions. While some of its efforts are misguided and out of touch, there is a serious issue with elite universities’ admissions systems that flies under the radar.

Universities hold admissions standards higher for certain Asian-American students than for white students, which defies the United States Constitution. However, the lack of a formal mechanism of quotas protects universities from facing legal ramifications.

It is perfectly justifiable that these Asian-American students are discriminated against in order to promote the ideals of affirmative action, such as for diversity and leveling the playing field for disadvantaged minorities. However, what is not justifiable — and in fact unconstitutional — is that they are held to a higher standard than white students, which achieves none of the goals of affirmative action.

Racial quotas were ruled unconstitutional in 1978 by the Supreme Court of the United States. However, schools can avoid legal prosecution by not implementing formal, hard and fast quotas. This does not stop Ivy League, elite, and selective institutions from carefully curating their incoming classes with a target racial distribution in mind.

When it comes to the Asian-American issue, Ivy League institutions actively work to keep Asians as a minority out of fear of losing a white majority. There is no dearth of evidence that an “Asian quota” exists inside the admissions chambers of schools like Penn.

Firstly, while America’s college-age Asian population doubled between 1992 and 2011, Harvard University’s Asian-American enrollment actually halved. Asian Americans made up over 27 percent of applicants at the three most selective Ivy League colleges from 2008 to 2012, but only consist of 17 to 20 percent of admits.


California’s admissions statistics show that the sizable white majority is unnatural, and almost definitely a result of quotas. Proposition 209 banned the consideration of race as a factor in college admissions in California in 1996. Comparing the Ivy League to California’s selective institutions, we see a shocking disparity. Not only has the California Institute of Technology’s Asian-American enrollment mirrored the growth of the nation’s Asian population, but schools under the University of California system, such as Berkeley and Los Angeles, show roughly equal enrollment of white and Asian students.

However, class profiles of the Ivy League show that racial groups gravitate around the same percentage points among these schools. White students always make up the majority, with around 20 percent Asian students, and 10 percent Black and Latino each. The case of California shows that we should expect Asian students to be admitted at the same rate as their population growth. Yet this clearly is not the case in the Ivy League as the percentage of Asians per class has mysteriously stagnated in spite of Asian-American population growth.


In these elite East Coast schools’ efforts to maintain a white-student majority and keep Asians as a minority, Asian-American students are held to a higher standard than white students, a 2015 Princeton University study found.

Penn must not be afraid of — God forbid — white students no longer being the dominating population. Not only is this practice ironically antithetical to values of multiculturalism and diversity, it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.

Any law that separates people by race, a “suspect class,” must pass strict scrutiny, the most rigorous form of judicial review, in order to be deemed constitutional. In order to pass strict scrutiny, a law must be “narrowly tailored to advance a compelling government interest.”

Supreme Court precedents prove that affirmative action passes because of the compelling interest of diversity and the lack of other alternatives to achieve diversity targets on campuses.

However, preferring white over Asian students comes nowhere near to satisfying strict scrutiny. The compelling interest of diversity does not stand. Replacing Asian students with white does not increase diversity — 50 percent white plus 20 percent Asian is not in fact more diverse than 35 percent each. The best alternative method to increase diversity is what is currently implemented — affirmative action favoring other minority groups. Therefore, discriminating against Asian students more than white students, with no compelling interest, only serves to perpetuate white domination in the United States.

Simply put, admissions offices must cease favoring white students over Asian. However, California’s race-neutral system is not the right way to go. Affirmative action stands because of its compelling interest to increase diversity and level the playing field based on socio-economic resources and a history of discrimination. It’s perfectly admirable to have mechanisms that improve diversity and counteract disadvantage, like holding back, white, and Asian students (equally), but it’s completely unjust to hold back Asian students to allow for the perpetuation of a white majority.

Penn, it might be time to stop saying you love helping minorities, when you actually subdue them once they start to threaten your white domination.


LUCY HU is a College sophomore from Auckland, New Zealand, studying political science. Her email address is lucyhu@sas.upenn.edu. “Fresh Take” usually appears every other Wednesday.

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