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Harvard doesn't discriminate against Asian-American applicants, judge rules

Judge rules in favor of Harvard in discrimination case
  • Harvard doesn't discriminate against Asian-American applicants, a judge ruled in a case regarding the university's admissions policies. 
  • The lawsuit was filed by an anti-affirmative action group that claimed Asian-American students are held to a higher standard than applicants of other races.
  • The judge ruled that Harvard's policies pass "constitutional muster."

Harvard University doesn't discriminate against Asian-American applicants, and its admissions policies pass "constitutional muster," a judge ruled in a closely watched case that put the Ivy League university's admissions process under scrutiny. 

The lawsuit, filed by anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions, claimed Asian-American students weren't getting a fair shake because of Harvard's policy of seeking racial and economic diversity, among other goals. The group claimed that, because Asian-Americans have a lower admission rate than other racial groups at Harvard despite having higher average SAT scores, the university was holding the group to a higher standard than other applicants to the school. The U.S. Department of Justice sided with the plaintiffs in the case.

But U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs ruled that Harvard's admissions policies, while "not perfect," stand up constitutionally. Relying on statistics to make sure that groups are evenly distributed in admissions could "potentially run afoul of the prohibition on quotas" and hurt Harvard's "holistic" approach in picking its incoming freshman class, she added.

"The court will not dismantle a very fine admissions program that passes constitutional muster,
solely because it could do better," Burroughs wrote in her ruling. 

The ruling has been closely watched at a time when it's tougher than ever to gain admission to an Ivy League institution. Harvard's acceptance rate was a record low 5.4% last year. High school students are eager to gain a spot at Harvard, Yale and other Ivy League colleges because of the perception that they open doors to careers, high pay and powerful professional networks.

In a statement, Students for Fair Admissions said it plans to appeal the decision. 

"Students for Fair Admissions is disappointed that the court has upheld Harvard's discriminatory admissions policies," the group's president, Edward Blum, said in the statement. "We believe that the documents, emails, data analysis and depositions SFFA presented at trial compellingly revealed Harvard's systematic discrimination against Asian-American applicants."

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