Does Harvard Treat Asian-American Applicants Unfairly? The Case Goes To Trial

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A group suing Harvard University says the school uses a loosely defined "personal rating" to discriminate against Asian-Americans who apply to the school.

The group Students for Fair Admissions has accused the Ivy League school of bias against Asian-American applicants, saying it holds them to a higher standard than students of other races.

The case was brought by a group that claims Harvard's admissions office discriminates against Asian applicants in order to boost other racial groups. One reason this is the case is that many see this case as one that could potentially impact affirmative action policies at other schools. But with the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court earlier this month, proponents of affirmative action have expressed unease that the appointment of the judge - and the resulting 5-4 conservative majority - will push the court to roll back previously established safeguards on the practice.

The Justice Department has also launched a probe into whether Yale University discriminates against Asians - something which is denies.

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In 2016, the Supreme Court upheld the University of Texas at Austin's consideration of the racial and ethnic backgrounds of applicants as a factor in its holistic review process. "Yes, Not to use race in their admissions policies." said Blum, "Harvard can achieve diversity without discriminating".

Lee said Students for Fair Admissions had misconstrued data, and that race was used only to a student's advantage in certain circumstances, and never to his or her disadvantage. This trial will also dissect a contentious political issue in higher education: affirmative action. Presidents at elite colleges later made a decision to tweak Kennedy's definition of affirmative action to include goals, quotas and racial preferences for black students in college admissions, Naison said. It considers factors from grades to geography, but also race, a tricky topic for a school that has struggled to reflect the nation's growing diversity.

The US Justice Department, which launched a related probe of Harvard after Republican President Donald Trump took office a year ago, has backed SFFA's case, saying that Harvard has not seriously considered alternative, race-neutral approaches to admissions. The university says that race-conscious admissions is essential to ensuring that students are exposed to a range of viewpoints.

Before the trial opened in a Boston federal district court on Monday, groups of protesters took the streets in the city, either opposing or supporting an admissions policy that includes race as a factor.

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Some details emerging from the trial could cast Harvard in a positive light, explaining the many layers of review it gives to more than 40,000 files a year before making almost 2,000 admission offers. He says, in the past, opponents of considering race in admissions have gone after top publicinstitutions.

The trial is expected to last three weeks, with two weeks for the plaintiff's case and one for Harvard.

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

"That's race discrimination, plain and simple", Hughes said.

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Mortara said that while Asian American applicants received higher ratings than other racial groups in academics and extracurricular activities, their applications are dragged down by comparatively low "personal" ratings determined by vague and subjective criteria that benefit other applicants, particularly African American and Hispanic applicants. In the 2016 case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, Kennedy wrote the argument rejecting arguments on behalf of Abigail Fisher, who also was recruited by Blum, and endorsing the racial affirmative action meant to diversity the campus of the flagship school based in Austin.