In an Education and Labor Committee hearing Thursday, GOP freshmen Rep. Michelle Steel pushed Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to address college admittance practices that abet discrimination by judging students on subjective matters such as “likeability”
In February, the Department of Justice shut down a Trump-era lawsuit that alleged Yale University relied on affirmative action policies during its admittance process in order to achieve a more diverse student body.
Critics of affirmative action argue it creates an adverse effect and judges students on their race, rather than their abilities – disproportionately targeting Asian-American and White students.
Steel, who pointed to California’s 1996 ban of affirmative action, told Fox News people want to see students accepted based on merit – but universities continue to practice a less obviously discriminatory protocol during student admittance.
The South Korean-born American explained Thursday that universities like Harvard, have been judging student applicants on character traits such as “likeability, integrity, helpfulness, courage, and kindness.”
Steel referenced findings uncovered in 2018 from an ongoing lawsuit, launched in 2014 by Students for Fair Admissions, which found that on average, Asian-American students scored higher than other student applicants across the racial spectrum on test scores, grades, and extracurricular activities.
But during Harvard’s admission process they were rated lower on “personal ratings” – reducing their admission rates.
“It is wrong for universities to continue the narrative that Asian-Americans lack social skills and desirable personality,” Steel said during Thursday’s hearing.
Cardona told the freshmen congresswomen he believed “students should have an opportunity to apply and get into colleges based on their own merit.” But he added that he was not fully aware of the circumstances surrounding Steel’s concerns.
Steel argued that judging student character traits was an unfair practice that has disproportionately impacted Asian-American students.
On average, 21.3 percent of White students received a high score in their personal ratings compared to the 17.6 percent of Asian-American students that received the same rating during the admittance process.
“If you don’t meet them in person and you are just scoring these kids by essays and applications, this is way too subjective,” she told Fox News. “It is just like throwing darts at a wall.”
Steel said she was “surprised” the education secretary was unaware of the controversial admittance practice but said “it was a very good start” that they agreed students should be judged based on merit.
Harvard maintains its admissions process does not discriminate against any race and said in a statement “the consideration of race is narrowly tailored to achieve the educational benefits of diversity.”