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Indian student alleges bias at Harvard, Princeton

Last updated on: February 3, 2012 20:26 IST

Indian student alleges bias at Harvard, Princeton

The unnamed Indian-American student has levelled allegations of racial discrimination during admissions against the Harvard and Princeton University in the US.

An Indian-origin student has levelled allegations of racial discrimination against two prestigious American universities -- Harvard and Princeton -- in their admission policy, prompting a probe by US authorities.

The unnamed Indian-American student, who was among the top students in his California high school class and whose family originally came from India filed the complaints against the two institutions.

Acting on the complaint, the US Education Department is probing whether the Harvard and Princeton Universities discriminate against Asian-Americans in undergraduate admissions, Bloomberg reported.

The department's Office for Civil Rights is investigating a complaint it received in August that Harvard rejected an Asian-American candidate for the current freshman class based on race or national origin, a department spokesman said.

The agency is looking into a similar August 2011 allegation against Princeton as part of a review begun in 2008 of that school's handling of Asian-American candidates, said the spokesman, who declined to be identified, citing department policy.

The new complaints, along with a case appealed last September to the US Supreme Court challenging preferences for blacks and Hispanics in college admissions, may stir up the longstanding debate about whether elite universities discriminate against Asian-Americans, the nation's fastest- growing and most affluent racial category, the report said.

Harvard "does not discriminate against Asian-American applicants," and doesn't comment on the specifics of complaints under federal review, spokesman Jeff Neal said.

Asian-Americans comprised 16 per cent of Harvard undergraduates in the 2010-2011 academic year, down from 18 percent in 2005-2006, according to the university's website.

"Our review of every applicant's file is highly individualised and holistic, as we give serious consideration to all of the information we receive and all of the ways in which the candidate might contribute to our vibrant educational environment and community," Neal said.

In a January 11 letter to Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Harvard and to the complainant, notifying them that it would investigate the allegation, the Office for Civil Rights said that the action "in no way implies that OCR has made a determination with regard to its merits. During the investigation, OCR is a neutral fact-finder."

The agency doesn't release the names of complainants. Princeton is aware of the 2011 complaint and will provide the government with the requested information, university spokesman Martin Mbugua said. The college, in Princeton, New Jersey, doesn't discriminate on the basis of race or national origin, he said.

"We make admissions decisions on a case-by-case basis in our efforts to build a well-rounded, diverse class," Mbugua said.


Image: Harvard University

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