A complaint alleges that Hubert Zhao was denied admission to Cornell in favor of less qualified peers.

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A complaint alleges that Hubert Zhao was denied admission to Cornell in favor of less qualified peers.

August 30, 2016

Cornell, Columbia Accused of Discriminating Against Asian American Students in College Admissions

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The Asian American Coalition for Education lodged a complaint with Department of Education last Wednesday, accusing Cornell and Columbia University of discriminating against an Asian student in the admissions process.

The complaint, filed within the Office of Civil Rights, claims that Hubert Zhao — the son of AACE president YuKong Zhao — was unjustly denied admission to both schools last year, according to Asian American activism blog Reappropriate.

Zhao is an “outstanding student with excellent academic and extracurricular achievements,” a 5.3 GPA and high PSAT and SAT scores, according to the AACE website. He and an Indian American classmate were the only students in their 700-person class who qualified as National Merit semifinalists.

While other students “from different racial groups in his high school, with objectively and often significantly lower academic and extracurricular credentials, were admitted to some of the top 20 universities,” neither Zhao nor his classmate were accepted to any of these schools, the website said.

AACE Vice President Jack Ouyang said in an online statement that Zhao’s experience is “another example of the widespread and systematic illegal discrimination against Asian American students by many colleges.”

Ouyang also argued that Zhao was rejected from Cornell and Columbia based on his father’s leadership position in the AACE.

Reappropriate disagreed, saying that Zhao’s connection to the AACE would not have been noted during the admissions process, and adding that the percentage of Asian American students in top 20 colleges has actually increased steadily at both schools.

On its website, the AACE states that it is against affirmative action, calling the Supreme Court’s pro-affirmative action ruling in Fisher vs. University of Texas “a dark day for the hard-working children of Asian Americans and other Americans who are discriminated against by the race-based college admissions policies.”

The organization has also lodged complaints against Brown, Dartmouth, Harvard and Yale for similar reasons.

  • Reality Check

    You have to wonder about what’s going on with any college applicant who claims a 5.3 GPA.

    • K

      Some schools use a GPA system that goes above 4.0 to account for things like honors and AP classes, with regular classes giving a maximum of a 4.0. That said, the number alone is useless without knowing the scale that it is based on.

  • A Parent

    I hope they included his essay with the complaint so it would be clear if that was a factor.

    When we visited Brown for a campus tour the head of admissions said they could have easily filled the incoming class three times over with qualified students from the application pool.

    This is not to say that Cornell and Columbia are or are not biased, but rather that there are many factors that go into structuring a matriculating class.

    • Lou

      Yeah because we all know Asians are incapable of writing an Asian because of that requires English.

      Your bias is showing.

      This is a typical thought with people who support bias against Asians in admissions and its shocking that self-hating Asians like Jenn Fang support this.

      • Lou

        Writing an “essay” (dang autocorrect)

  • Gustavros

    They’re clearly objective in claiming discrimination over the rejection of the son of their president. Great case.

  • K

    Affirmative action is racist, no way around it. If you really think that certain groups of people deserve a leg up in college admissions to make up for disadvantages they had growing up, do it based on socioeconomic status, not race. Why should a black kid from a wealthy family face lower admission standards than a white kid who spent his whole life living in a trailer park, or a middle class asian? I understand wanting to help people who are less privileged get into a good college, but deciding who needs help and who doesn’t based on the color of their skin is just racist.

  • Angela Zehava

    Diversity in a class of students is a very important factor in admissions. Students learn as much from each other as from the professors. Diversity is not only racial diversity. Universities try to create a class that is made up from people from different areas of the country (and the world), different viewpoints, sexual identity, interests, experiences. GPA plus “extracurriculars” does not equal a perfect candidate. It may be that there were thousands upon thousands of kids with perfect GPAs and “extracurriculars,” but the other students were more interesting, more gay, more travelled, more passionate or whatever. Ultimately they are sifting through this enormous pile of high GPA students for those they feel will add a little something extra to the class. It may be that this dutiful student was boring, or wrote an essay that was boring. As another poster noted, there are many things that go into admissions, including character, attitude, interests, passion, viewpoint and so forth. A poor kid with a 3.8 who spent his summers in Mexico with his immigrant parents every year is going to add something to the class that 20 white and asian kids with a 5.3 and piano lessons and a life of dutiful privilege never can. My kids (one white and one asian) understand this and so should this student. No one is entitled to a place, and its a bit offensive that some people feel they are.

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