Harvard Asian American Discrimination Case

Harvard Discrimination, Harvard Admissions Discrimination, Discrimination at Harvard

Harvard may be headed to court to defend itself against claims the school discriminates against Asian American applicants (photo credit: Chensiyuan).

Harvard University could soon be going to trial in a case in which it will have to defend itself against claims the university actively discriminates against Asian American applicants in its admissions practices. As our regular readers may recall, a group known as Students for Fair Admissions has filed a lawsuit in which the group alleges that Asian American applicants to the university are held to a higher standard than non-Asian American applicants. The suit, which began in 2014 and alleges that Harvard caps its Asian American student population at a certain quota, could be headed for trial as early as this summer in Boston. And for those folks who are closely following the Department of Justice’s probe of Harvard’s admissions practices as it relates to Asian American discrimination, that probe is not directly related to this particular case. You see, Harvard is at war on many fronts concerning its admissions practices.

Harvard Facing Claims of Asian American Discrimination in Admissions

As reports Joan Biskupic for “CNN” in a piece entitled “Suit accusing Harvard of capping Asian-American admissions could be tried this summer,” “Lawyers for both sides submitted a status report and proposed schedule Friday in US District Court in Boston. Harvard has asked that a trial begin in July or August. Students for Fair Admissions, the group that filed the complaint, wants a trial to begin no earlier than October 1. It says it would need the extra time to prepare for a trial of the size and scope anticipated. The Students for Fair Admissions challengers, however, also say they want to file a summary-judgment motion by June 15, which would test whether they have already made the case that Harvard intentionally discriminates against Asian-Americans. Harvard contends that the group lacks the grounds even to make the motion and urged US District Judge Allison Burroughs to move directly to a trial.”

Harvard is Ready for Trial, SFFA Not So Much

As our regular readers know all too well, we are not attorneys but we do shlep around a crystal ball all the places we go. The crystal ball has even been cited on the pages of America’s oldest college newspaper. And our crystal ball predicts that the motion by Students for Fair Admissions requesting a summary judgement wasn’t worth the paper it was written on — and it was an absolute waste of the court’s time. Any reasonable attorney representing Students for Fair Admissions couldn’t possibly think that a judge would declare SFFA victorious over Harvard in lieu of even a trial. In fact, it reads to us as pure arrogance. As Biskupic writes, “Harvard lawyers rejoined that ‘it is unsurprising that SFFA wishes to project confidence’ and noted that Harvard, too, is confident in its case.” Well said, Harvard lawyers. Oh — and one other thing. Harvard is ready for trial. SFFA is the group that brought this complaint before the courts. So why oh why is the group that brought the complaint before the courts not ready for trial but the defendant, Harvard, is in favor of an earlier trial? SFFA, that doesn’t exactly read as confident to us! Optics matter. Perhaps SFFA’s lawyers would be well served to heed our advice when it comes to college essays: show, don’t tell. And don’t brag (especially, SFFA, when you can’t back it up).

Will Harvard Be Victorious Against Claims of Asian American Discrimination in Admissions?

Do our readers think that SFFA’s best shot was its initial complaint against Harvard? Has the group lost some wind in its sails? Why do you think SFFA’s attorneys are seeking a summary judgement? Did they not anticipate having to go to trial? Has SFFA’s chief fundraiser, Edward Blum, run out of funding? Does SFFA not feel they’ve got a strong case? Or is the group filing for a summary judgement just lawyers being lawyers? Let us know your thoughts, your musings, and what you’re intending to eat for breakfast tomorrow by posting a Comment below. We look forward to hearing from you.

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7 Comments

  • getmoreveggies says:

    Harvard’s class of 2021 is 53.1% female- should male applicants denied admission to the Harvard class of 2021 file a lawsuit? Fact: every April 1st, thousands of well-qualified applicants (4.5+ GPAs, 800 SATs, extensive extracurriculars) are denied admission to Harvard.

    Americans abuse lawsuits, so many of which are meritless and negatively impact our country, its citizens, governments and corporations.

    Students should want to learn in a diverse environment with a balance of students comprised of all ethnicities, cultures, genders, talents and skillsets. Harvard has an Asian-American population of 22%. The U.S. has an Asian-American population of 5.6%. Are we missing something?

    Harvard is a private university that is entitled to the freedom to decide how and to whom it provides its educational services.

    • AngryAsian says:

      Similarities to the explicit quota system of Jewish Americans in the early 1900’s. One could easily substitute Asian Americans for Jewish Americans:

      Abbot L. Lowell, president of Harvard University from 1909 to 1933, wrote to a Harvard philosophy professor to explain that enrolling a high number of Jewish students would “ruin the college” by causing elite Protestant students to attend other schools, according to Karabel’s book. Harvard would be ruined “not because Jews of bad character have come; but the result follows from the coming in large numbers of Jews of any kind, save those few who mingle readily with the rest of the undergraduate body,” Lowell wrote in the letter.

      The only way to prevent this, Lowell argued, was to impose strict quotas and restrictions. Ideally, Lowell wanted to cap Harvard’s Jewish population at 15% of the student body, according to Karabel. The size of the Jewish student body had quickly risen from 7% of freshmen in 1900 to 10% in 1909, 15% in 1915, 21.5% in 1922, and 27.6% in 1925.

  • JPC says:

    I think summary judgment is a fairly standard tactic that the court anticipated the parties would use so I would not read too much in to assessing the merits based on the decision to file. But what is really interesting here is the plaintiffs’ effort to make the alleged evidence it has obtained public. I think how hard Harvard fights against that request will tell you much more about what is at issue and who feels confident about the merits.

  • JMM says:

    Perhaps the law suit is already having a tiny effect. Yesterday, according to the Harvard Crimson, “Asian American admits went up to a record 22.7 percent, compared to last year’s 22.2 percent.” Big whoop, but I must admire the attempt at positive spin. The university is practicing brand management for its benefactors, who do not want the college to stray from its historically white and waspish underpinnings. I suspect that if Asian students become benefactors in the future, this would affect Asian admissions far more than any law suit.

  • Gasman says:

    Jack Ma should donate to Harvard. But he probably won’t because he knows had he gone to Harvard, he was alleged to have been denied admission by Harvard 10 times, he would not have founded Alibaba.

  • KenC says:

    “has filed a lawsuit in which the group alleges that Asian American applicants to the university are held to a higher standard than non-Asian American applicants.”

    And don’t all universities differentiate their applicants? They don’t apply the same standards to a poor African-American applying from the bayous of Louisiana, as they do to a caucasian applying from the Upper East Side of NYC.

  • Anonymous says:

    “So why oh why is the group that brought the complaint before the courts not ready for trial but the defendant, Harvard, is in favor of an earlier trial?”

    Harvard dragged its feet for years to file admissions data proving Harvard’s guilt with the court. Finally, after Harvard was forced by the court to file the data, Harvard requests early deadlines, hoping to give little time for opponents to digest and respond to the data.

    A fairer question is:

    “So why oh why did Harvard drag its feet for years, against revealing its admission data to the court, if Harvard is innocent?”

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