Judge Allison Borroughs of the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts ruled this week that Harvard University’s admissions system does not discriminate against Asian-American applicants, reports The New York Times. The plaintiff, a nonprofit called Students for Fair Admissions, argued that Harvard admissions officers intentionally downgraded Asian-Americans with high test scores via a subjective personality rating in order to inflate the number of Black and Hispanic students at the school. Borroughs found no evidence of systemic discrimination, writing that the program “passes constitutional muster in that it satisfies the dictates of strict scrutiny” but urged Harvard to put more systems in place to check for implicit bias among admissions officers.
Weighing in on race-conscious admissions
This closely watched case is the first instance of a group representing one minority arguing that they have been treated unfairly in comparison to another minority in order to “balance” a class by race and ethnicity to fulfill racial quotas, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education.
In her decision, Burroughs noted that the Supreme Court has stipulated that affirmative action policies should expire when no longer needed in American society but said that day has not yet come. She upheld Harvard’s method of considering the full range of life experiences and cultural perspectives that each applicant brings, beyond their academic credentials.
“For purposes of this case, at least for now, ensuring diversity at Harvard relies, in part, on race conscious admissions,” Burroughs wrote in her decision. “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.”
More litigation on the horizon
Students for Fair Admissions will appeal the decision, and many observers expect the case to reach the Supreme Court. The group has also sued The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for not using race-neutral admissions practices, a case that was recently given the green light to move forward.