A current lawsuit against Harvard University accusing the institution of anti-Asian bias in its admission process has ignited a national conversation about the future of affirmative action policies. However, Emily Raymundo, a Dean’s Postdoctoral Fellow in Asian-American Studies at Dartmouth College, says that blaming affirmative action for the alleged discrimination against Asian Americans is misleading.
In her presentation on Tuesday, Raymundo explained that different components of the discussion are often conflated.
“Basically, the Harvard case is actually about whether or not there is anti-Asian bias in Harvard admissions, broadly in their entire admissions process, but what that’s being spun as in the media and also by the people who are funding it is whether or not affirmative action policies are the cause of anti-Asian bias and the limiting of Asian-American students in admitted student populations,” said Raymundo.
Rather than cutting back on affirmative action, which Raymundo says is still a necessary element of college admissions, Raymundo supports expanding these policies to take into account anti-Asian bias.
“It’s a false equivalence to say that the reason Asian Americans are not getting in is because Black, Latinx, and Native students are getting in. That’s why I was showing the way that the Harvard admissions policies worked because that’s absolutely not what’s happening,” said Raymundo.
Raymundo continued, “It’s a really misleading comparison, and it leads us to think that anti-Asian bias can only be resolved by getting rid of affirmative action policies when in fact it’s the opposite. It’s actually about expanding our notion of affirmative action to incorporate anti-Asian bias as well. That will resolve the problem.”
According to Karen Sun ’20, Raymundo’s presentation reframed the discussion by dispelling some of the misconceptions that affect race relations in the country, especially among minority groups.
“I think [Raymundo] did an incredible job of breaking those two questions down and really identifying how this is so crucial to the discussion that we must have because mixing these two together pits a lot of minorities against each other and not only that, it confuses the conversation we should be having and frames the conversation in a way that disadvantages all minorities in general,” said Sun.
During the presentation, LaShawn Springer, Associate Director of the College Counseling Office (CCO) and the Director of Community and Multicultural Development (CAMD), observed connections between CCO and CAMD.
“I very much appreciated Dr. Raymundo’s presentation. It was a great example of how my work with the CCO and my work with CAMD intersect with one another… She challenged us to stop framing anti-Asian bias as a symptom of affirmative action and instead to examine the roots of anti-Asian bias as one that is steeped in a long history of racist ideologies affecting all sorts of institutions, including schools,” wrote Springer in an email to The Phillipian.
In the CCO, Springer works with her colleagues to promote equity in all its forms so as to best serve students going through the college admissions process.
Springer wrote, “With regard to my work in the CCO, I feel fortunate to be in an office that openly has these types of conversations. We are always thinking about what equity and access looks like in the work we’re doing and in our profession… Our office continues to keep our ears to the ground and stay abreast of developments in the college admissions world so that we can remain knowledgeable about how our students might be affected.”
In the search for solutions to bias in college admissions, Raymundo proposed reforming some of the different categories and processes used to assess applicants. Raymundo said that it is important to be aware of race rather than removing it from the equation.
“The solution is not to take away race-conscious language. To me, it’s actually to be more conscious and to start working through how we can consciously begin to address some of these unconscious issues, maybe by reforming the ways in which we do, say, alumni interviews or the kinds of questions that get asked on essays… Individually reforming those categories is one way of doing it, but I think also just acknowledging that race is an unconscious structure that comes from a material history of discrimination is one way of making conscious some of those problems,” said Raymundo during the talk.