The Lawsuit Against Harvard and Its Alleged Discriminatory Practices

Rae Ann Varona


This is an excerpt from an article originally published in Asian Journal. Read the rest here.


The U.S. Department of Justice criticized Harvard University’s admission practices by announcing its support of an anti-affirmative action group that sued the Ivy League university for allegedly discriminating against Asian-American applicants in its admission policies.


In a Statement of Interest filed in federal court Thursday, August 30, the Justice Department backed the Students for Fair Admissions group in claiming that Harvard University “has failed to show that it does not unlawfully discriminate against Asian Americans.”


The lawsuit dates back to 2014 when Students for Fair Admissions sued the university for violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in programs that receive federal financial assistance.


“No American should be denied admission to school because of their race.  As a recipient of taxpayer dollars, Harvard has a responsibility to conduct its admissions policy without racial discrimination by using meaningful admissions criteria that meet lawful requirements,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.


He added that the case “is significant because the admissions policies at our colleges and universities are important and must be conducted lawfully.”


Harvard, which moved to dismiss the suit, responded to the Justice Department’s statement and said that it was “deeply disappointed” in the government’s siding with the plaintiff, “recycling the same misleading and hollow arguments that prove nothing more than the emptiness of the case against Harvard.”


“Harvard does not discriminate against applicants from any group, and will continue to vigorously defend the legal right of every college and university to consider race as one factor among many in college admissions, which the Supreme Court has consistently upheld for more than 40 years,” the university said.  “Colleges and universities must have the freedom and flexibility to create the diverse communities that are vital to the learning experience of every student, and Harvard is proud to stand with the many organizations and individuals who are filing briefs in support of this position today.”



Among the arguments used against the university is its “personal rating” factor that anti-affirmative action groups say may be biased against Asian Americans.


In its filing, the Justice Department called the scoring system “vague and elusory.”  In its press release, it said that the university “scores Asian-American applicants lower on the personal rating than white applicants.”


According to the university, the personal rating is meant to reflect on a “wide range of applicant information or applicant information, such as personal essays, which Harvard uses to understand the applicant’s full life story.”


This, it added, includes where the student grew up, what opportunities or challenges they faced in their families or communities, and what “impact they might have both at Harvard and after they graduate, as citizens and leaders out in the world.”


But as those against affirmative action got their nod of support from the U.S. government, a number of social scientists and scholars went on to pledge their support for Harvard.


This is an excerpt from an article originally published in Asian Journal. Read the rest here


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