Law & the Courts

Appeals Court Rejects Lawsuit Alleging Anti-Asian Discrimination at Harvard

A student and parent pass Widener Library’s banners before Harvard University’s Class Day Exercises in Cambridge, Mass., May 27, 2015. (Dominick Reuter/Reuters )

A federal appeals court ruled on Thursday that Harvard’s admissions practices do not discriminate against Asian applicants, in a case that will likely end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a lawsuit against Harvard filed in 2014, Students for Fair Admissions, a group representing several anonymous Asian-American plaintiffs, alleged that the university discriminates against applicants of Asian descent and attempts to lower their representation on campus. Harvard has contended that its admissions practices, details of which were revealed as a result of the lawsuit, is intended to produce a diverse body of students.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals rejected plaintiffs’ latest appeal, agreeing with an earlier district court ruling.

“There was ample non-statistical evidence suggesting that Harvard admissions officers did not engage in any racial stereotyping,” the Circuit Court’s ruling read. “The district court did not clearly err in finding that Harvard did not intentionally discriminate against Asian Americans.”

The case has been followed closely by supporters and opponents of race-based affirmative action policies. In the event that plaintiffs attempt to bring their suit before the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Court agrees to hear arguments, plaintiffs will argue their case before a 6-3 conservative majority of justices on the bench.

The Justice Department filed its own amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs in February of this year.

“The parties disputed the statistical evidence extensively, but one point should be common ground: Asian-American applicants have become a casualty of Harvard’s efforts to boost members of other races,” the Justice Department stated in its brief.

The Justice Department has also taken an active interest in alleged discrimination against Asian-American and white applicants to Yale University, claiming that the university “rejects scores of Asian American and white applicants each year based on their race, whom it otherwise would admit.”

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.


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