Federal Judge Says Harvard Does Not Discriminate Against Asian Americans

A federal judge ruled Tuesday in favor of Harvard University in a high-profile lawsuit that alleged the school was discriminating against Asian Americans by considering race in its admissions process.

U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs in Boston said in her ruling that “ensuring diversity at Harvard, relies, in part, on race-conscious admissions,” and that while the school’s admissions process isn’t perfect, it passes “constitutional muster.”

Anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) filed the lawsuit in 2014, alleging the Ivy League school discriminates against Asian American undergraduate applicants by factoring race in its admissions process. The SFFA argued the process holds Asian American students to a higher standard than others. Asians make up about 5.6% percent of the U.S. population and made up 22.2% of Harvard’s admitted undergraduate class in 2017.

The Harvard lawsuit sparked a nationwide debate about affirmative action in colleges. In August 2018, the Justice Department said that Harvard failed to demonstrate that it does not discriminate on the basis of race in its admissions policy.

Harvard did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but it has denied SFFA’s allegations in the past. 

Conservative strategist and SFFA President Edward Blum told HuffPost that the organization is “disappointed” in the ruling and believes the information SFFA provided at trial “compellingly revealed Harvard’s systematic discrimination against Asian-American applicants.” 

Blum said SFFA will appeal the ruling, which could result in the case going up to the Supreme Court. The high court allows higher education institutions to consider race in admissions, but it says the decision must be made in a way to specifically promote diversity and should be implemented for a limited time.

Blum was also behind an anti-affirmative action lawsuit against the University of Texas at Austin. The Supreme Court ruled in the university’s favor in the lawsuit in 2016.

With Harvard’s current admissions process, students will be able to “know and understand one another beyond race, as whole individuals with unique histories and experiences,” the judge ruled Tuesday.

“It is this, at Harvard and elsewhere that will move us, one day, to the point where we see that race is a fact, but not the defining fact and not the fact that tells us what is important, but we are not there yet,” Burroughs said. “Until we are, race-conscious admissions programs that survive strict scrutiny will have an important place in society and help ensure that colleges and universities can offer a diverse atmosphere that fosters learning, improves scholarship, and encourages mutual respect and understanding.”

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