Harvard faces trial over claims of bias against Asian Americans

Aaron Brown
October 18, 2018

Monday's trial in Boston is expected to last at three weeks.

The trial in federal court in Boston pits the Ivy League school against Students for Fair Admissions, which was founded by an anti-affirmative action activist and whose case is backed by the Trump administration.

And, he said repeatedly, Harvard never considers an applicant's race as a negative.

U.S. District Court Judge Allison Burroughs, who was nominated by President Barack Obama and sworn in in 2015, will preside over the non-jury trial.

The group Students for Fair Admissions, led by conservative legal strategist Edward Blum, is suing Harvard, charging the university engages in "racial balancing", which is illegal, and discriminates against Asian-American applicants by rating them lower on intangible traits like courage, kindness and leadership.

It notes that the Supreme Court has previously held that colleges have an interest in enrolling diverse groups of students and may consider race as one factor among many when reviewing applications.

Statistics showed Asian Americans applicants outperformed other racial groups on academic measures, yet that was not necessarily borne out on Harvard's campus, Adam Mortara, a lawyer for SFFA, said in his opening statement on Monday. The U.S. Justice Department is also investigating Harvard over alleged discrimination against Asian-Americans, and Yale University was announced as the subject of a similar investigation by the Justice and Education departments in September.

"They tend to be much more privileged economically and more highly educated than previous generations of Chinese-Americans or other Asian-Americans", Poon said. Sally Chen. a senior Chinese American student studying history and literature at Harvard, told Xinhua.

He said a relative of his was denied admission to an East Coast university he wouldn't name, even though he adds she had higher test scores than non-Asian peers who were admitted.

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"Race alone is never the reason a student is granted admission", Lee said. Fitzsimmons denied any bias, explaining it as an "evenhanded" way to reach rural students who otherwise wouldn't consider Harvard.

The final goal of the lawsuit is to have Harvard stop discriminating against Asian Americans and treat everyone, whites, African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans the same during the admissions process.

The expectation is that whatever the court decides, one side or the other will appeal and this case will eventually wind up at the Supreme Court.

A trial will open here in federal court Monday to weigh accusations that Harvard University's famously competitive undergraduate admissions system is rigged against Asian Americans, a case that could become another landmark in the nation's long debate over affirmative action.

The Harvard case has captured the attention of many in the education world, including leaders of some colleges who say a loss for Harvard could put their own policies in jeopardy.

The trial began almost four years after Harvard was sued by Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit based in Arlington, Virginia, that believes schools should not consider race when selecting students.

Mr. Arcidiacono found that an otherwise identical applicant bearing an Asian-American male identity with a 25 percent chance of admission would have a 32 percent chance of admission if he were white, a 77 percent chance of admission if he were Hispanic, and a 95 percent chance of admission if he were black.

Asian-Americans, who represent about 6 percent of the US population, comprise 23 percent of Harvard's current freshman class.

During the recent confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh, civil rights groups expressed concern over the newly-minted Supreme Court Justice's past writing on affirmative action.

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