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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.