A lawsuit accusing Harvard University of discriminating against Asian-American applicants in admissions moved to trial on Monday.
Students for Fair Admissions have alleged that Harvard is biased against its Asian-American applicants, supposedly holding them to higher standards than students of other races.
Harvard, reports the Associated Press, has denied the accusations. The Ivy League institution has instead indicated that ‘it considers race as one of many factors’ when evaluating admissions applications.
The Associated Press and New Yorker both note that Students for Fair Admissions may not have transparent motives. Founded by conservative strategist Edward Blum, the group’s intent is ensuring that race is never a factor in deciding college applications.
“Most Americans don’t want race to be part of your application to college,” Blum told The New York Times. “They don’t want the police to use race as a profiling tool to prevent crime. They don’t want prosecutors to use race in the makeup of a jury. Your race and ethnicity should not be something used to help you or harm you in your life’s endeavors.’
While some observers believe Blum’s trying to combat discrimination against Asian-Americans, the New Yorker’s columnist says the stakes are higher: that Students for Fair Admissions aspires to end any and all forms of affirmative action.
Based in Arlington, Virginia, the coalition claims to have 20,000 members, at least some of whom are Asian-American.
Blum ‘previously helped coordinate a lawsuit accusing the University of Texas of discriminating against white students.’
That case was discarded by the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 2016 ruled the university’s use of race in admissions was permissible by law.
The lawsuit brought by Asian-American students and the Far Admissions association accuses Harvard of using an unfair ‘holistic’ review system. That system, plaintiffs say, includes a ‘personal rating’ category that tends to give Asian-American candidates significantly lower ranks than Hispanic and African-American applicants.
The charges, per the Associated Press, partly rely ‘on an analysis of Harvard admissions records by Duke University economist Peter Arcidiacono, who found that Asian-Americans bring the strongest academic records but are admitted at the lowest rate. He also found that while Asian-Americans receive strong personal rating scores from alumni interviewers, they are consistently dealt lower scores in that are from the admissions office.’
On top of that, the suit claims that Harvard dictates quotas based on ‘racial balancing’—a practice that’s been deemed illegal.
Harvard, in its own right, keeps a close guard on its admissions process. The university was allowed to redact details from court documents, although the Associated Press says those same redactions may be unveiled during trial testimony.
One way or another, Harvard maintains that its campus diversity would be compromised if it was barred from ever considering race.