A federal judge rejected a claim that Harvard University intentionally discriminated against Asian-Americans applicants in a lawsuit aimed at challenging affirmative action.
The lawsuit, brought by a group of Asian-Americans who were rejected by the university, sought to overturn a longstanding Supreme Court precedent that allows colleges to consider race as a factor in admissions, The New York Times reports.
The group argued that Harvard favored African-American and Hispanic students at the expense of Asian-American applicants, who as a group have higher test scores and grades. Previous challenges similarly argued that the precedent was unfair to white students.
Judge Allison Burroughs ruled that the university was complying with strict standards, which prohibit the college from using set racial quotas.
Burroughs wrote that universities should consider diversity in their admissions process.
“Diversity,” she wrote, “will foster the tolerance, acceptance and understanding that will ultimately make race conscious admissions obsolete.”
The decision is expected to be appealed and is expected to reach the Supreme Court.
Judge rejects all of group’s arguments:
The lawsuit argued that Harvard discriminated against Asian-Americans, used race as the main factor in its admissions, that it racially balanced its classes, and that it considered race before other alternatives that would create diversity. Burroughs rejected all of the claims.
The Harvard admissions process was “not perfect,” she wrote, but noted that race was only considered as a “plus” factor and never a negative against applicants.
The college considers race as part of a student’s “overall rating” but “race has no specified value in the admissions process and is never viewed as a negative attribute.”
Burroughs noted that Asian-American applicants were admitted to Harvard at the same rate as other applicants and made up 20% of its admitted class, despite making up 6% of the national population.
Case expected to head to Supreme Court:
The group that brought the lawsuit vowed to appeal the decision to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, and “if necessary, to the Supreme Court,” NPR reported.
"This has been kind of a beacon of civil rights policies in higher education that helped to transform student demographics, especially at elite institutions," Mitchell Chang, an education professor at UCLA, told the outlet.
"I think what this case represents is a very concerted effort to bring the question of race-conscious admissions back to the Supreme Court," added Liliane Garces, an instructor at the University of Texas at Austin.