On Sept. 24, a judge rejected claims that Harvard intentionally discriminated Asian Americans applicants during the admissions process in a case that presented the biggest challenge to affirmative action in decades, according to The New York Times.
The plaintiff who represents a group of Asian Americans applicants rejected by Harvard, Students For Fair Admissions, filed a lawsuit against the university because they want race to not be one of the many factors considered in the admissions process.
The lawsuit called out the university for giving preference to Black and Hispanic applicants over Asian applicants and accused Harvard of violating federal civil rights law by placing higher standards on the applications of Asian Americans on stereotyping basis.
The group said that Harvard in part downgraded applications from Asian Americans “based on a subjective rating system that was vulnerable to stereotyping,” The New York Times reports.
Students For Fair Admissions had a total of four claims related to Harvard intentionally discriminating against Asian Americans applicants, using race as the most predominant factor for admissions decisions, balancing its classes based on race and for not exhausting other variables other than race to make decisions.
Allison D. Burroughs, the federal judge who ruled out all the plaintiff’s claims, said that the university had met the constitutional standard for considering race in its admissions process, but the process itself wasn’t perfect The New York Times reports.
Judge Burroughs added that considering race in college applications will bring more diversity to the student body of colleges and universities and this will in turn make race conscious admissions obsolete.
During the trial Judge Burroughs touched on an argument made by the plaintiff in regards of the unconscious biases of admissions officers at the university.
But despite the imperfections of the admissions process at Harvard, Judge Burroughs said that the system will not dismantle the university’s admissions process just on the basis that it can be improved.
This case is considered to be a groundbreaking one because it will review the admissions process on other schools in order to make them feel less discriminatory.
“The power of American higher education stems from a devotion to learning from our differences. Affirming that promise will make our colleges, and our society, stronger still.” Harvard’s president, Larry Bacow, wrote in an email where he gave credit to the students who testified at the trial.
Judge Burroughs’ decision did sit well with many universities and groups. President of The American Council on Education Ted Mitchell showed in a statement his gratitude towards the judge respecting “more than four decades of U.S. Supreme Court precedent,” The New York Times reports.
Edward Blum, the leader of Students For Fair Admissions, is a conservative against affirmative action. He has filed additional charges to affirmative action against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in federal court and the University of Texas at Austin in state court.
The case has brought mixed criticism about the admissions process at the school, with some saying that the white establishment is afraid to losing its position to another race, while others admitted that the admissions process at Harvard is flawed but the system really does try to create a more perfect society.
The case is not yet over. Several top-ranked colleges also expressed their support through court filings an the Justice Department, which backed the plaintiff, is pursuing their own investigation.
The New York Times reports that it is “widely expected” that the case will go through the Supreme Court.