[February 24, 2015] The answer to the question is “no” … we don’t treat people fairly … we have never treated everyone fairly … and never will because of many reasons. One reason is a lack of fairness is based in law. For example, we know that at many Ivy League universities that Asian-Americans are widely and openly discriminated against for admission. This runs completely counter to a basic leader principle that leaders treat people fairly.
On average in the United States, Asians are highly competitive, have the highest entrant scores, the best grades, the most extracurricular activities, spend more on education, and have the best qualifications for entrance to colleges. Yet, they are significantly underrepresented in admissions. At Harvard University, over half of all applicants for the Admitted Class of 2018 with exceptionally high SAT scores were Asian, yet the class make-up was only 20 percent.1,2
We know this is an outgrowth of the policies established by the U.S. federal government in the 1960s. The government on the one hand prohibits discrimination based on race, but on the other requires preferential treatment of Blacks and Hispanics in Affirmative Action programs. Not only has this been historically controversial, it also goes against the basic core values of Americans.
The point here is not to rehash the controversy of Affirmative Action or the fact that some races in the United States are discriminated against by law. What is important is that leaders, in particular senior leaders, stand against all forms of unfair discrimination. They must obey the law; however it does not mean that they should remain silent about government programs that are unethical, immoral, and are incompatible with American core values.
What is being done to help Asian-Americans attain improved admissions into these Ivy League universities? Sadly, the answer is that mostly nothing is being done.
Herein lies a lesson for senior leaders today. The lesson is that when U.S. law violates the basic principles of fairness and morality, leaders must stand up to it by working to have those very laws repealed, public exposure of those who support discriminatory admissions, and rallying good people to support fairness.
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