HomeCampusOff-color joke from Asian Am in Harvard case sparks controversy

Off-color joke from Asian Am in Harvard case sparks controversy

A joke sent by an Asian American civil rights worker to the dean of admissions at Harvard is at the center of a controversy in the Harvard admissions discrimination case, reports the New Yorker.

Thomas Hibino who retired in 2012 from the Federal Office of Civil Rights sent the joke some have described as racist to William Fitzsimmons. Hibino once worked for the Japanese American Citizens League and lead an investigation into Harvard’s alleged discrimination against Asian American applicants decades ago. He sent his joke in the form of an email to Fitzsimmons in 2013. The Harvard Crimson reports it was sent after the conclusion of Hibino’s investigation.

The New Yorker and other media organizations successfully fought to unseal the email which Judge Allison D. Burroughs kept out of the public record during a 2018 trial. The joke was in a form of a fictitious memo from the Harvard Admissions Office which Hibino described in his email as “really hilarious if I do say so myself!” According to the New Yorker, the fake memo parodied an admissions officer downplaying the application of an Asian American. The applicant named “Jose” was “the sole support of his family of 14 since his father, a Filipino farm worker, got run over by a tractor.”

He was also a “California’s Class AAA Player of the Year.”

“We just don’t need a 132 pound defensive lineman,” read the memo. “I have to discount the Nobel Peace Prize he received. . . . After all, they gave one to Martin Luther King, too. No doubt just another example of giving preference to minorities.”

Students for Fair Admissions had sought to enter into the 2018 trial the joke along with Fitzsimmons reaction to it. SFFA argued Fitzsimmons laughed along with the joke, but Judge Burroughs ruled it irrelevant and said one could not assume that Fitzsimmons appreciated the humor.

Those that believe Harvard does discriminate against Asian Americans believe this is just another example of the attitude Harvard has towards Asian Americans.

Ultimately it will be the Supreme Court to decide. The justices heard arguments in the discrimination case in October and are expected to release their ruling in the spring or summer.

With the conservatives now in the majority on the court, many are predicting Harvard will lose the case.

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