Harvard on trial over alleged discrimination against Asians

Clay Curtis
October 18, 2018

Harvard disputes the claim and says race is only one small factor in their secretive student selections process.

Both sides clashed Monday at the opening of a trial at Boston's federal courthouse.

Harvard says its admissions process is "holistic" - that it weighs not only test scores, but a student's broader experience, which includes race and other factors.

A federal lawsuit alleging Harvard University discriminates against Asian-American applicants goes to court this week in Boston.

The Supreme Court upheld their law school's affirmative action policies, but ruled that the school's undergraduate admissions officers couldn't use racial bonuses, like 20 points for blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans on an admissions rating scale, NPR's Nina Totenberg reported in 2003.

The trial is expected to last three weeks, with the final decision to be made by U.S. District Court Judge Allison D. Burroughs.

A trial began on Monday in a lawsuit alleging Harvard University discriminates against Asian-American applicants, a closely watched case that could influence how USA colleges may use race as a factor in their admissions decisions.

Advocates opposed to the lawsuit say an end to race-conscious admissions would ultimately harm Asian-American students, among them lower-income Chinese, Southeast Asians and others.

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The case already has pulled back the curtain on aspects of Harvard's secretive admissions process, including a "personal rating" that measures certain character traits. Yes, Not to use race in their admissions policies. "This white conservative activist is spearheading the lawsuit against Harvard - a fact that on its own should generate skepticism towards its merits, especially in an audience of color like ours", Pham adds.

Statistics showed Asian Americans applicants outperformed other racial groups on academic measures, yet that was not necessarily borne out on Harvard's campus, Adam Mortara, a lawyer for SFFA, said in his opening statement on Monday.

The Justice Department last month launched a similar investigation into whether Yale University also discriminates against Asian-Americans, an allegation it denies. The model is used by many other colleges. Meanwhile, he argued, black and Latino students get a decisive advantage due to their race. I spoke with attorney Lee Cheng with the Asian American Legal Foundation, which is supporting this lawsuit. An applicant's race, standing alone, would never the reason for admission, Lee said, with Harvard's "whole person review" created to ensure that no one characteristic was overriding.

A group suing Harvard University says the school uses a loosely defined "personal rating" to discriminate against Asian-Americans who apply to the school.

Students for Fair Admissions believes the case could fix a system that places unfair weight on race, primarily at the expense of academically talented Asian Americans.

"Harvard is systemically saying that Asian candidates are not likeable and don't have good personalities. which is nothing but racist", says Lee Cheng, a lawyer and secretary of the Asian American Legal Foundation, which supports the lawsuit.

Harvard is one of the top-rated and most selective universities in the United States, admitting about 1,600 freshman students out of 42,000 applicants each year. In court, the group will need to prove that Harvard is intentionally rejecting the applicants because they're Asian, due to their race. Whoever loses would be expected to appeal, potentially setting the stage for another Supreme Court case.

The replacement of conservative Kavanaugh, for the more moderate retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, increases the chances that the 1978 affirmative action landmark, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, would be overruled.

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