Trial starts on claim Harvard discriminates against Asian Americans

18 October, 2018, 01:13 | Author: Sheila Harris
  • Harvard affirmative action case goes to trial Monday

"The case is critically important", said Nicole Gon Ochi of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, which backs Harvard, "as it's really about diversity at colleges all across the country".

A lawsuit alleging racial discrimination against Asian American applicants in Harvard's admissions process is heading to trial in Boston's federal court on Monday, Oct. 15, 2018. That rating, he said, is often crucial to the outcome.

Blum previously helped coordinate a lawsuit accusing the University of Texas of discriminating against white students. He also contended that Harvard knew of the problem since "red warning flags" were raised internally in 2013 but the university did nothing about it.

The US Justice Department, which launched a related probe of Harvard after Republican President Donald Trump's election, has backed the group, saying the Cambridge, Massachusetts, university has not seriously considered alternative, race-neutral approaches to admissions.

Lee walked through what he described as a painstaking review process in which race is one of many factors. "If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything", said Lee, a member of the Harvard Corporation. There will be no jury.

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.

Expected to last at least three weeks, the trial puts a new twist on an old controversy. This time Asian Americans are at the center of the fight. "There, the conservative majority would likely dismantle the architecture of race-conscious admissions policies - something that any diversity- and equality-valuing community should defend at all costs", Pham writes.

But most applicants don't quite know what that means. The judge allowed Harvard to redact many details from court documents, but they could be uncovered in trial testimony.

Some could be unflattering. "Hispanics receive such personal scores more than 20% of the time in the top seven deciles, and African Americans receive such scores more than 20% of the time in the top eight deciles."...

Also on Monday, representatives from two groups of Harvard students and alumni filed amicus briefs, known as "friends of the court".

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Harvard has denied the accusations and called the lawsuit "politically motivated". Some alleged victims gave pretrial depositions under oath, but their identities remain anonymous.

Last November, Harvard was accused of limiting the number of Asian Americans admitted into the university.

Their defense partly relies on an analysis by David Card, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, who found no evidence of discrimination in Harvard's admissions records.

Arguing on behalf of Harvard, attorney Bill Lee said the school simply can't achieve its stated aims without weighing students' race - its campus would either become much less diverse, or less academically excellent.

After the Trump administration revoked Obama-era guidelines encouraging the use of race in college admissions in July, Northwestern announced it would not change its admissions practices. Fitzsimmons has been Harvard's dean of admissions and financial aid since 1986.

MARTIN: So just to be clear, Kirk - so Harvard uses this personality rating system for all applicants.

Not so, Fitzsimmons replied. "We are trying to combat past inequalities with, ironically, additional inequality". "Students for Fair Admissions supports diversity on campus", he said.

The trial comes amid increasingly partisan outlooks on higher education. Both universities deny those allegations.

Harvard counters that courts have repeatedly upheld colleges' right to consider race. But the pivotal vote in that ruling, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, has since retired. Kennedy retired earlier this year, and Brett Kavanaugh recently replaced him.

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