A federal judge on Tuesday ruled in favor of Harvard University’s admissions process that court documents show discriminates against Asian-Americans by requiring higher academic achievement for admittance and rating them lower on soft characteristics like “likability.”
In a high-profile case that drew the support of the Trump administration’s Justice Department, the nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions, represented by prominent anti-affirmative action lawyer Edward Blum, accused the Ivy League university of discriminating against applicants based on race, making it more difficult for Asian Americans to be admitted.
Although Harvard has admitted it does consider race as a point in applicants’ favor or disfavor, U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs ruled that is constitutionally permissible based on Supreme Court precedent. Burroughs wrote in a 130-page ruling that while the university’s admissions practices were “not perfect,” “the Court will not dismantle a very fine admissions program that passes constitutional muster, solely because it could do better.” Judge Burroughs suggested improvements to the university’s process that include bias training for admissions officers and “clear guidelines on the use of race in the admissions process.”
In her decision, Burroughs found that the current policy complied with Supreme Court precedent. She also touted the benefits of race-attentive admissions on university campuses.
“For the purposes of this case, at least for now, ensuring diversity at Harvard relies, in part, on race conscious admissions,” the judge wrote.
The students who are admitted to Harvard and choose to attend will live and learn surrounded by all sorts of people, with all sorts of experiences, beliefs and talents. They will have the opportunity to know and understand one another beyond race, as whole individuals with unique histories and experiences. 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.
The case, originally filed in 2014, is expected to be appealed and re-tried in the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to re-litigate affirmative action that the nation’s highest court has previously upheld.
Polling has consistently found that a majority of Americans oppose race-based preferences in college admissions. Regardless, the Supreme Court has ruled starting in 1978 that race-based admissions, even at government-run campuses, do not violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s requirements of equal protection under the law.