The Dark Side of Diversity at Harvard

Show Notes

Journalist Kenny Xu joins Peter and Eric on The Drill Down to talk about the dark side of “diversity and inclusion” efforts in America’s schools and universities. It’s a subject he knows very well as an Asian American who is president of a nonprofit group called “Color Us United,” and was involved in a lawsuit against Harvard University related to the issue.

Kenny, 25, is also the author of the fascinating book, An Inconvenient Minority: The Harvard Admissions Case and the Attack on Asian American Excellence, which takes a deep dive into that dark side at what was once America’s premier university. In the case of Harvard, it shows up in a hazy admissions metric that no one at the university can really explain known as the “personality score.”

Author Kenny Xu

“Harvard admissions is really based on three factors,” Xu says. “First is academic performance and potential. The second is extracurricular activities the applicant has been involved in. And the third is the ‘personality score.’ Our research showed that that Asian American applicants to Harvard, as a group, scored the highest on academics, the second-highest in extracurricular activities, and the lowest on the personality score.”

Kenny’s book reveals these and many other findings about Harvard, based on information the university had to reveal as part of discovery for the original lawsuit. The book, in his words, “exposes the falsity of the Left’s racial narrative. The success of Asian Americans, despite that they come from backgrounds that don’t have any “white privilege,” proves this. And it disproves the idea that America is a racist country. Why would a racist country allow a minority to overtake whites in all these statistics?”

The lawsuit, known as Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College, is now before the US Supreme Court, which must address the questions of whether institutions of higher education can use race as a factor in admissions, and whether Harvard is violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by penalizing Asian American applicants, engaging in racial balancing, overemphasizing race and rejecting workable race-neutral alternatives.

Eric asks Kenny about the dirty secret of the “personality score.”

Harvard, Kenny explains, has tried to define it using terms such as likability, leadership skills, sense of humor, engaging conversationalist, and other soft skills. But the one thing they have never been able to show is who does the grading, how someone is scored for such subjective criteria, and what goes into it? Why does it seem to disproportionately exclude Asian American students who otherwise meet or exceed Harvard’s other requirements?

“There’s no formal process,” he said. Kenny shares that when he was applying to colleges in 2015, he applied to Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania, but not to Harvard. “People in general weren’t aware of this issue in 2015, but the Asian kids knew what was going on there.”

In an article for The Heritage Foundation’s site TheDailySignal, Kenny wrote that “Harvard’s blueprint of discrimination, if not checked by the U.S. Supreme Court, allows any actor with racially malicious intent to bury their discrimination underneath a fake ’character’ trait, while gaining full legal immunity in the process. Any lawyer will be able to point to Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard ruling to show that their discrimination is legal.”

The issue was once called “reverse discrimination” when the High Court issued its seminal “Regents of the University of California v. Bakke” decision in the late 1970s. That decision outlawed racial quotas in university admissions, but nevertheless allowed race to be used as a factor in admission decisions. Later laws and efforts to promote “diversity and inclusion” aimed at increasing the numbers of minority group students weren’t supposed to discriminate against Asian American students, but that is the clear message that Asian students have been given.

Yet, as Kenny and Eric discuss, the true factor behind the success of Asian Americans in academia, despite policies such as Harvard’s, is a story of family support for education. Kenny found through hundreds of interviews for his book that Asian families encourage education and studying much more than other racial groups. He adds: “The parents devote time after school to give time to kids to study, work with their kids to identify areas for improvement. And this helps them not only with testing but with critical thinking and overall performance, too.”

He cites the example of Ann Hsu, a Chinese American in San Francisco who led a successful movement to recall several “woke” school board members in that city and was eventually appointed to an open school board position by the city’s mayor. When she ran to retain that seat, the local NAACP and other progressive groups seized on statements she had made explaining that “lack of family support” was the biggest problem in students’ poor performance. Those groups pounced on that as a racist statement. Hsu eventually disavowed that simple truth, but in doing so she lost the support of the Chinese American community that honestly agreed with her and went on to lose the election.

Does Kenny think there is a rising tide of political power coming from Asian Americans?

Not really, he says. Asians’ approach to political problems is just to work even harder, not to get into politics.

Peter notes that what’s going on shows a lot of corruption and cronyism in the system, with various “diversity consultants” making big money on contracts with cities trying to promote “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” policies in their schools.

Asian Americans are fighting for meritocracy. They are fighting for the right to be treated for their accomplishments and their potential, not their race or color.

Peter comments that Harvard used to stand as the pinnacle of excellence, but is essentially “destroying its brand.”

Eric adds that they and the rest of the educational establishment are really redefining the word “excellence” to mean “lived experience” instead of performance.

Peter says, “It’s a corruption of the notion of diversity and inclusion. If you have a meritocracy, you can measure what is excellent. But how to do you measure equity and inclusion?” If the measure is racial demographics, the need to enroll as many black students as possible, you must admit preferentially to do that, he adds.

Kenny: “America is diverse country with people who pursue different paths. But people fail to remember you can’t just have diversity without meritocracy. Because then you compromise standards and that’s when diversity becomes a bad thing.

What does Kenny think Americans should be doing to change such policies? “Get a meeting with your local state legislator. Tell them this is a chance for them to get the votes of people who wouldn’t ordinarily vote for them, by standing up for meritocracy in schools instead of blindly supporting ‘diversity’ efforts,” he says.