Court Considers Whether Harvard Discriminates During Its Admissions Process

A federal appeals court on Wednesday heard oral arguments in the case that accused Harvard University’s admission process of discriminating against Asian American students.

The story: The prosecution and the defense in the case presented their arguments before the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel.

William Consovoy, a lawyer for the non-profit Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), told the judging panel that Harvard admitted Asian Americans at lower rates, compared to other groups, despite having higher scores. He also argued that admission officials in the school gave Asian Americans lower personal scores based on stereotypes, the Wall Street Journal reported.

U.S. Justice Department lawyer Eric Dreiband made the case that Harvard gave “no serious consideration of race-neutral alternatives” in adopting their current admission process.

The court asked whether there is evidence of racial profiling. Lawyer Seth Waxman, who represents Harvard in the case, asserted there is a “mountain of evidence” that shows the school did not discriminate against Asian Americans intentionally.

At least one of the judges at one point pointed to previous Supreme Court rulings where the court has determined that universities can consider race as a factor.

How we got here: The case landed in the appeals court after U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs ruled in 2019 that although the school’s admission process does not discriminate against Asian Americans. The judge said Harvard’s system is “not perfect” but that there weren’t any “‘workable and available race-neutral alternatives’” that could guarantee a diverse student community.

Worth noting: Both sides have said they believe the case will reach the Supreme Court. Legal activist Edward Blum, the founder of SPAA who opposes affirmative action, spearheaded a similar lawsuit against the University of Texas at Austin that twice reached the Supreme Court.

“We are grateful the judges on the First Circuit were well-prepared for this important argument,” President of Students for Fair Admissions Edward Blum told the Daily Caller. “If necessary, Students for Fair Admissions is prepared to take this case to the U.S. Supreme Court,” he added. “It is gravely disconcerting that Harvard’s admissions officers systematically gave Asian-Americans the lowest scores on personality traits such as likability, kindness and courage.”

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Author: Penka Arsova


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