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Is Harvard Racist Towards Asians?

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Starting back in the 1970s, officials at America’s more selective colleges and universities began using racial preferences to increase the percentages of certain minority group students on campus. Preferences for certain groups, however, also means preferences against others.

Early in the last century, some of the top universities had a quota for Jewish students. Harvard, for example, capped their number because officials didn’t want to risk upsetting Boston traditionalists who might be disturbed to see Harvard become “too Jewish.” It didn’t matter that many of the Jewish students were academically superior to other applicants — officials just didn’t want to have too many.

These days, the un-preferred group is students of Asian ancestry. Rather than merely accepting that as their sacrifice for good educational policy, many Asian-Americans (how distressing is the imperative of putting individuals into hyphenated groups!) are now battling against the double standards that make it much harder for them to gain admission into the nation’s most prestigious schools.

A recent Wall Street Journal piece, Harvard’s Chinese Exclusion Act by Kate Bachelder, was based on an interview she did with Chinese immigrant and successful Florida businessman Yukong Zhao. Mr. Zhao argues that Harvard and other top universities hold Asian students to significantly higher standards to keep them from growing as a percentage of student bodies.

The old “too Jewish” fear has been replaced by a new one — becoming “too Asian.”

Mr. Zhao is among the people advocating that the Education Department investigate  Harvard’s admission policies. Under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, educational institutions that receive any federal money are obligated to treat individuals equally, regardless of race or other immutable characteristics. You can read the complaint filed by Students for Fair Admissions here.

Can a university be in compliance with the law when “an Asian-American student must earn an SAT scores 140 points higher than a white student, 270 points higher than a Hispanic and 450 points higher than an African-American” to have an equal chance at admission? Zhao and quite a few legal scholars think not.

He maintains that this is a civil rights issue and adds, “College is not a theater.” Students shouldn’t be chosen because they have the right ancestry to play parts in a play. They should be chosen on the basis of their desire and ability to learn.

Even though the percentage of Asians in the population has been growing, the percentage admitted to Harvard has remained almost unchanged for many years. That strongly suggests a quota policy, which hardly seems to comport with the law.

It’s very revealing that at another of America’s elite universities, Cal Tech, the percentage of Asian students has steadily risen, from 26 percent in 1993 to 42.5 percent today. Cal Tech is notable for not playing the “diversity” game with admissions and admitting students just based on their evident academic strength, not on their race or ethnicity.

I wish Students for Fair Admissions success in their legal efforts. However, Harvard can spend vast amounts in fighting the suit, which will eventually come up against the well-entrenched beliefs in the bureaucracy and judiciary that universities ought to be allowed to use “holistic” (read: subjective) admissions policies so as to craft a student body that is optimally “diverse.”

Defeating racial preferences in court is very iffy, as we’ve seen with the Fisher case.

Therefore, I think that they, Zhao, and all others who want to stop the discrimination against Asian students should also argue that Harvard and other top universities ought to stop doing so for educational reasons. Even if they are stymied in the legal system, they might succeed in pressuring those universities into dropping a practice they adopted without thinking through its adverse consequences.

The plain truth about racial preferences is that they mean turning away some of your strongest applicants and replacing them with students who are academically weaker. Doing that makes administrators feel good, but it downgrades the school.

I first heard that argument when I read Thomas Sowell’s 1993 book Inside American Education: The Decline, The Deception, The Dogmas. He attacked the notion, as prevalent then as now, that by using “holistic” evaluations, admissions officers can assemble a superior student body — one more “rich and interesting” than if the school just admitted students based on their academic qualities. Sowell wrote:

What will look ‘rich and interesting’ to superficial people can of course differ greatly from what scholars who are masters of their respective intellectual disciplines will find to be students able to plumb the depths of what they have to offer. Dull-looking nerds can revolutionize the intellectual landscape and produce marvels of science, even if their life stories would never make a good movie or television mini-series.

That is exactly the case regarding many of America’s highly driven students of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, and other backgrounds. They are rejected at top institutions like Harvard that think they already have “enough” of them. But if they matriculated, they would not only advance most rapidly, but probably also bring more fame to the school.

In that regard, Zhao cites a Kauffman Foundation study finding that between 2006 and 2012, 42 percent of all technology startups were begun by Asian-American entrepreneurs.

You might think that trustees and alumni would demand to know why their school leaders persist in the dubious diversity mania instead of trying to recruit the best students. They should not just meekly sit by and allow racial preferences to impede their schools from excelling. How about an alumni petition to the president of Harvard saying, “Why can’t we be more like Cal Tech?”

Although it is repeatedly asserted, there is no reason to believe that admitting quotas of students from “underrepresented” groups actually does anything to improve the learning climate on campus.

On the contrary, it can degrade the learning climate when administrators feel compelled to make allowances for weaker students. That is the case at the University of Wisconsin, where administrators want faculty members in certain introductory courses to ensure that grades are distributed “equitably.” (Professor Lee Hansen has written about that for the Pope Center here.)

I am delighted to see that Asian-Americans (that awful hyphen again) are speaking out against racial preferences. That stands to reason, since their children are the big losers in the racial preferences game.

But they should be joined by non-Asians who understand that the purpose of college is for students to maximize their learning, not for administrators to play at social engineering.

This post first appeared at the Pope Center. and was written by George C. Leef. See more.

Entrepreneurship

Women on Top in Tech – Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and Digital Innovation Strategist

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(Women on Top in Tech is a series about Women Founders, CEOs, and Leaders in technology. It aims to amplify and bring to the fore diversity in leadership in technology.)

I am talking to Tara Velis, Growth Hacker and freelance Digital Innovation Strategist. Tara was selected and recognized by TheNextWeb.com as one of the 500 most talented young people in the Dutch digital scene during the 2017 TNW edition. Tara is known for her creative, entrepreneurial spirit, which she is using to her advantage in leading the change in SMEs and corporates around the globe.

What makes you do what you do?

I tend to see life as a big, complex puzzle. Because of my curious nature, I am in constant development, looking for new angles and new approaches to business problems. Innovation through technology is exploring ideas and pushing boundaries. The most radical technological advances have not come from linear improvements within one area of expertise. Instead, they arise from the combination of seemingly disparate inventions. This is, in fact, the core of innovation. I love going beyond conventional thinking practices. Mashing up different thoughts and components, connecting the dots, and transforming that into something useful to businesses.

How did you rise in the industry you are in?

I consistently chose to follow my curiosity, which has led me to where I am today. If you want to succeed in the digital industry, you need to have a growth mindset. Seen the fact that the industry is evolving in an astoundingly quick rate, it’s crucial to stay current with the trends and forces in order to spot business opportunities. I believe taking responsibility for your own learning and development is key to success.

Why did you take on the role of Digital Innovation Strategist?

The reason for this is twofold. On the one hand, I got frustrated with businesses operating in the exact same way they did a couple of decades ago. Right now we are in the midst of a technology revolution, and the latest possibilities and limitations of cutting-edge technologies are evolving every single day. This means that companies need to stay current and act lean if they want to survive. On a more personal level, I noticed that I felt the need to use my creativity and problem-solving skills to their maximum capacity. In transforming businesses at scale, I change the rules of the game. I love breaking out of traditional, old-fashioned patterns by nurturing innovative ideas. This involves design thinking, extensive collaboration and feedback, the implementation of various strategies and tactics, validated learning, and so on. I get a lot of energy from my work because it is aligned with my personal interests.

Do you have a mentor that you look up to in your industries?

Yes, I look up to Drew Boyd. He is a global leader in creativity and innovation. He taught me how to evaluate ideas in order to select the best ones to proceed with. This is crucial because otherwise,you run the risk of ideas creating the criteria for you because of various biases and unrelated factors. He also taught me a great deal on facilitation of creativity workshops.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I tend to have the characteristics of a transformational leader. People have told me that my enthusiasm and positive energy is motivating and even inspiring to them. Even though I take these comments as a huge compliment, I am not sure how I feel about referring to myself as a leader. To me, it still has a somewhat negative connotation. I guess I associate the concept with being a boss who’s throwing around commands. But if a leader means listening to others and igniting intrinsic motivation in people, then yes, I guess I’m a charismatic leader.

Do you consciously or unconsciously support diversity and why?

Yes, one hundred percent. I believe that creativity and innovation flourish when a highly diverse group of people bounces ideas off each other. Diversity in terms of function, gender,and culture is extremely valuable, especially in the ideation phase of a project, as it can help to see more possibilities and come up with better ideas.

Do you have any advice for others?

Yes, I have some pieces of advice I’d like to share.
First of all: Develop self-awareness. You can do so by actively seeking feedback from the people around you. This will help you understand how others see you, align your intentions with your actions, and eventually enhance your communication- and leadership skills.

Surround yourself with knowledgeable and inspiring people. They might be able to support you in reaching your goals, and help you grow both personally and professionally.

Ask “why?” a couple of times. This simple and powerful method is useful for getting to the core of a problem or challenge. Make sure to often remind yourself and your team of the outcome of this exercise to have a clear sense of direction and focus.

Data is your friend. Whether it’s extensive quantitative market research or a sufficient amount of in-depth consumer interviews (or both!), your data levels all arguments. However, always be aware of biases and limitations of research.

Say “Yes, and…” instead of “No”. Don’t be an idea killer. Forget about the feasibility and budget, at least in the ideation phase. Instead, encourage your team to generate ideas without restrictions. You can compromise certain aspects later.

Prioritization is key. There is just no way you can execute all your ideas, and, quite frankly, there is no point in trying to do so. Identify the high potential ideas and start executing those first.

Encourage rapid prototyping. Don’t wait too long to experiment, launch, and iterate your product or service. Fail fast and fail often. Adopt an Agile mindset.

If you’d like to get in touch with Tara Velis, please feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/taravelis/

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Callum Connects

Marek Danyluk, CEO of Space Ventures

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Marek Danyluk has a talent for assessing the competencies of management teams for other businesses and pulling together exceptional teams for his own businesses!

What’s your story?
I am the CEO of a venture capital business, Space Ventures, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses. I also own and run Space Executive, a recruitment business focused on senior to executive hires across sales, marketing, finance, legal and change.

My career started as a trainee underwriter in the Lloyds market but quickly moved into recruitment where I set-up my first business in 2002. The business grew to around 100 people. I moved to Asia in 2009 as a board member of a multinational recruitment business with the mandate to help them scale their Asian entities, which helped contribute to their sale this year, in 2017.

My main talent is assessing the competencies of management teams as well as building high performing recruitment boutiques and putting together exceptional management teams for my own businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
Building the business is very much about attracting the best talent and being able to build a culture which people find invigorating and unique. It’s an exciting proposition to be able to define a culture in that regard and salespeople are a fun bunch, so when you get it right it’s tremendous.

From a VC point of view there is just so much happening. South East Asia is a melting pot of innovation so the ideas and quality of people you have exposure to, is truly phenomenal. The exposure in the VC has taken me away from a career in recruitment. Doing something completely different has given me a new level of focus.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Whilst I came here with work, both my boys were born in Singapore and to them this very much is home. That said, my father in law spent many years in the East so coming and settling here was met with a good degree of support and familiarity.


Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Possibly Hong Kong. It’s the closest I’ve been to working in London. Whilst there are massive Asian influences people will work with you on the basis you are good at what you do and work hard. I find that approach very honest and straightforward.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Always treat people well on the way up!”

Who inspires you?
I like reading about people who have excelled in business such as Jack Ma, James Kahn, Phil Knight, Sir Richard Branson, Elon Musk, all have great stories to tell and they are all inspirational. No-one has inspired me more than my parents and they are well aware as to why…

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Pretty much any technology innovation blows me away.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Whilst it is important not to have regrets I do continually wake up thinking I’m still doing my A’ Levels. So, I’d have probably tried a little harder in 6th form.

How do you unwind?
I like the odd glass of red wine and watching sport

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Japan skiing. I love skiing and Japanese food and it’s a time when I can really enjoy time with the wife and kids. I recently tried the Margaret River which was divine, although not technically Asia.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Barbarians at the Gate

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive is the fastest growing recruitment business in Singapore focused on the mid to senior market across legal, compliance, finance, sales and marketing and change and transformation. Multi-award winning with exceptional growth plans into Hong Kong and London this year, and the US, Japan and Europe by the end of 2022. We are building a truly global brand.

Space Ventures is interested in any businesses that require capital or management and financial guidance or any or all of the above. We have, to date, invested in on-line training, food and beverages, peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring as well as other tech and fintech start-ups. We are always interested in hearing about potential deals.

How can people connect with you?
[email protected]

Twitter handle?
@Spaceexecutive

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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