Trial beginning on suit alleging Harvard admissions bias

A bicyclist rides past a gate to Harvard University on Aug. 30 2018 in Cambridge Massachusetts

The U.S. Justice Department, which launched a related probe of Harvard after Republican President Donald Trump's election, has backed SFFA's case, saying that Harvard has not seriously considered alternative, race-neutral approaches to admissions.

A lawsuit has challenged the use of race as a factor in Harvard admissions - a decades-old push to boost minority enrollments at America's oldest and perhaps most prestigious university.

The US Supreme Court ruled against him in 2016, upholding the university's admissions policy.

The trial is expected to last three weeks, with the final decision to be made by U.S. District Court Judge Allison D. Burroughs.

One side says Harvard University's admissions process unfairly excludes academically talented Asian-Americans in favor of students from other races.

Harvard denies any discrimination, saying it considers race as one of many factors when considering applicants. Harvard has denied the charges.

The lawsuit accuses Harvard of imposing tougher standards for Asian-American applicants and says it discriminates against them using a "personal rating" category.

CARAPEZZA: Harvard says there's been no discrimination against Asian-American applicants. Those ratings, which he said reflect assessments in such traits as likability, sensitivity and grit, are weighed along with ratings in other categories such as academics and extracurricular activities.

The Justice Department revoked a number of documents, including Obama administration memos encouraging schools to take race into account for admissions and enrollment decisions to foster diversity. Affirmative action turned into a "results-driven" effort to integrate American colleges and end race rioting, he said.




Harvard says it has made strides in that area but must be able to consider race in order to continue progress. There could be new revelations, for example, about preferences Harvard gives to children of alumni or donors, and a so-called "Z-List" that offers deferred admission to certain students who don't get in through the typical process.

Pitted against it is an organization called "Students for Fair Admissions", led by a conservative white activist, Edward Blum, who previously attacked the "affirmative action" policies at the University of Texas.

Thang Diep, an Asian-American refugee from Vietnam, released his marked-up Harvard application to testify in support of the Cambridge, Mass. university in court. This couldn't be further from the truth - a study of the 2011-2012 school year found that while 81 percent of Asian-American students had access to college-preparatory math and science courses, only 57 percent of black students enjoyed the same privileges.

Asian-Americans, who represent about 6 per cent of the U.S. population, comprise 23 per cent of Harvard's current freshman class.

The lawsuit has sparked debate among students, with pro-affirmative action protesters and individuals supporting the case holding duel rallies over the weekend.

"Basically, we just want the colleges to admit students based on their merits, instead of meddling in the process and systematically discriminating against students based on their race, skin color and national origin", Yu said.

However, Harvard claimed this admissions process is legal and that the group misinterpreted the data in an attempt to remove affirmative action from the admissions process.

The trial began almost four years after Harvard was sued by Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit based in Arlington, Virginia, that believes schools should not consider race when selecting students.

During the recent confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh, civil rights groups expressed concern over the newly-minted Supreme Court Justice's past writing on affirmative action.

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