Student sues Princeton for discrimination against Asians

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November 16, 2006

9:33 PM

(U-WIRE) PRINCETON, N.J. – Yale freshman Jian Li filed a federal civil rights complaint against Princeton for rejecting his application for admission, claiming Princeton University discriminated against him because he is Asian.

p. The complaint, which was filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights Oct. 25, alleges that Princeton’s admissions procedures are biased because they advantage other minority groups, namely blacks and Hispanics, legacy applicants and athletes at the expense of Asian applicants.

p. “We’ve been notified of the complaint and asked to provide information to the Office of Civil Rights, and the University will provide the Office of Civil Rights with the information,” University spokeswoman Cass Cliatt said Sunday. “But I will say that we do not believe that the case has merit.”

p. The case injects new life into the debate about affirmative action and race in college admissions. Li’s minority status adds a new twist to the story, since previous complaints about universities’ racial preference policies have been filed by white students alleging bias.

p. Li cites a recent study conducted by two Princeton professors as evidence for his case. The June 2005 study concluded that removing consideration of race would have little effect on white students, but that Asian students would fill nearly four out of every five places that are currently taken by black or Hispanic students.
Current legal precedent on the question of racial preference grew out of two lawsuits filed in 2003 against the University of Michigan. The Supreme Court ruled that colleges could use racial preferences benefiting underrepresented groups such as blacks and Hispanics, but that quotas and other “mechanistic” policies are unconstitutional.

p. In Li’s case, however, “you have a minority candidate, but a minority candidate from a category that is not regarded by the [court] as an underrepresented category,” Princeton University politics professor Robert George said. “This is a minority candidate who is saying, ‘I don’t want my race to be counted for me or against me. But for my race not to be counted against me, it is important that no race be counted in any way that reduces my chances of admission.’ ” …

p. A newly-configured court, which now includes conservative justice Samuel Alito, could reverse its earlier decision and deem all racial preferences unconstitutional. …

p. Currently, Li said, colleges discriminate against Asians on the basis of their ethnicity or race. “I’m not saying that people with the highest SAT scores should be admitted to universities,” he said. “Lots of things should be considered beyond that, but I don’t think race should be one of them.”

p. Li, who has a perfect 2400 SAT score and near-perfect SAT II scores, was rejected this past year from five of the nine universities he applied to; Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, MIT and U. Penn.

p. — By Kate Carroll, The Daily Princetonian (Princeton)

p. — compiled by Maxim Lott

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