A judge ruled on Tuesday that Harvard University is not discriminating against Asian students by way of its racially sensitive admissions policy. Students for Fair Admissions (a nonprofit membership group who believes that “racial classifications and preferences in college admissions are unfair” )sued the university back in 2014 claiming that in virtue of admitting perhaps ‘less qualified’ students from various racial communities in the interest of diversity, they are partaking in the “systematic discrimination against Asian American applicants.”
In their lawsuit, Students for Fair Admissions, (ironically founded and led by a white man) noted that internal admissions documents made it clear that while Asian students were outperforming others in a handful of academic categories, many of them were denied admission after ranking relatively low on non-academic personality metrics. But, Allison D. Burroughs, the judge that presided over the case insisted that the university’s admissions process “passes constitutional muster.”
“Ensuring diversity at Harvard relies, in part, on race-conscious admissions,” Burroughs wrote. “The use of race benefits certain racial and ethnic groups that would otherwise be underrepresented at Harvard and is therefore neither an illegitimate use of race or reflective of racial prejudice.”
While no students were asked to testify on behalf of the university, many elected to do so on their own accord. Interestingly, several Asian students testified and made the exact opposite case of the SFFA’s argument. Many of them explained that in their estimation, being Asian helped them stand out among other applicants. Moreover, Burroughs felt sure that Harvard officials were being honest when they explained they’d explored other metrics for admitting students. Ultimately, admissions officials felt that other metrics that didn’t account for things like race and gender wouldn’t facilitate the level of diversity that they were looking for in their enrollment. Currently, around 44 percent of Harvard students are white, seven percent are of black or African descent, 11 percent Latino. Hilariously, Asians are the second most represented ethnic group at Harvard with about 17 percent.
Despite their loss in state court , there is a good chance that the SFFA will try and take the case all the way to the Supreme Court. As it stands right now, the position of the courts is that affirmative action policies are only to be overturned when we don’t need them. It’s hard to say what not needing the practice would even look like, but Burroughs is certain that now is hardly the moment.
“The rich diversity at Harvard and other colleges and universities and the benefits that flow from that diversity will foster the tolerance, acceptance and understanding that will ultimately make race conscious admissions obsolete,” Burroughs wrote.