Court Hawk
Harvard Affirmative Action Admissions Policy
NBC Washington

Harvard Admissions Policy Ruled Legal, But Fight For Affirmative Action Isn’t Over

On October 1, the Federal District Court concluded that Harvard University’s race-sensitive admissions policy does not discriminate against the Asian-American community.

Around this time last year, the Students For Fair Admissions group submitted a lawsuit against the university claiming that its admissions process was biased against Asian-Americans. Judge Allison Burroughs disagrees.

Students For Fair Admissions v. Harvard

The Students For Fair Admissions lawsuit has sparked renewed discussion and debate surrounding affirmative action as it relates to the college admissions process. It’s important to note that Judge Burroughs’ ruling merely stated that Harvard’s admissions policy wasn’t illegal, not that it was perfect.

During the trial last October, representatives of SFFA stated that the only way Asian-Americans receive a fair chance in the admissions process is if race is eliminated as a factor. The plaintiff claimed that Harvard University caps the amount of Asian-Americans that are accepted.

President of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Vanita Gupta, said, “The court’s ruling today confirmed what the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld: Affirmative action policies expand equal educational opportunity for all people of color, including Asian-Americans, and are legal.”

SFFA Plans to Appeal Court Ruling

Race-conscious admissions have been permitted since the Supreme Court’s first ruling regarding affirmative action and higher education. This allows universities to take race into consideration when deciding which applicants will be accepted for the sake of racial diversity.

However, race can only be used as one factor among many others. Explicitly setting a quota based on race is not permitted. SFFA is confident that Harvard has “crossed the line” and will be appealing the court’s ruling.

SFFA claimed that Harvard University was giving Asian-Americans lower “personal ratings”—based on demonstratable personality traits—compared to white students. Harvard gives applicants 4 ratings based on a scale from 1 to 6.

Asian-Americans rated higher than white students in academic and extracurricular areas but significantly lower in the personality category. SFFA’s conclusion is that Asian-Americans were being discriminated against based on their race while ignoring the other scoring factors.

More Than Likely Heading to Supreme Court

Edward Blum, an adversary of race-conscious admissions and affirmative action, is representing SFFA. He is currently targeting a similar lawsuit against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Advocates for affirmative action feel that Blum’s goal is getting the lawsuit before the Supreme Court.

Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, says that Blum’s “endpoint is the U.S. Supreme Court and that he’s applying every pressure point.”

Since the Trump administration has recently replaced Justice Anthony M. Kennedy with the much more conservative Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, advocates of affirmative action within higher education worry that the fairness of the admissions process at larger universities like Harvard and UNC may be in jeopardy.