Har­vard de­feats suit seek­ing to bar af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion

Lodi News-Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Pa­tri­cia Hur­tado

NEW YORK — Har­vard Univer­sity de­feated an anti-af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion group’s law­suit to stop the school from us­ing race as a fac­tor in ad­mis­sions, in a rul­ing that’s likely to be chal­lenged all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A fed­eral judge on Tues­day said the na­tion’s oldest col­lege may con­sider race as one cri­te­rion among many in its ad­mis­sions de­ci­sions. The suit, brought in 2014 by Stu­dents for Fair Ad­mis­sions, claimed that Har­vard il­lic­itly en­gaged in “racial bal­anc­ing” by ar­ti­fi­cially lim­it­ing Asian-Amer­i­cans’ num­bers and fa­vor­ing African Amer­i­can, Latino and white ap­pli­cants.

“The court will not dis­man­tle a very fine ad­mis­sions pro­gram that passes con­sti­tu­tional muster, solely be­cause it could do bet­ter,” U.S. District Judge Al­li­son Bur­roughs said in a 130-page rul­ing.

The de­ci­sion is al­most cer­tain to be ap­pealed. For decades, the Supreme Court has up­held af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion in stu­dent se­lec­tion, but the high court has grown more con­ser­va­tive in re­cent years and a new re­view may look less fa­vor­ably upon the prac­tice.

SFFA, re­ly­ing on a sta­tis­ti­cal anal­y­sis, ar­gued that Asian-Amer­i­cans were less likely to get into Har­vard than other mi­nor­ity groups, though they scored higher than other racial and eth­nic groups on many ob­jec­tive mea­sures, in­clud­ing test scores, aca­demic achieve­ment and ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties. The group said that in ad­mis­sions data from 1995 to 2013, Asian Amer­i­cans had the low­est ac­cep­tance rate of any group, at 8.1%, com­pared to 10.6% for His­panic stu­dents, 13.2% for African Amer­i­cans and 11.1% for whites.

The group also said that a 2013 in­ter­nal re­port by Har­vard’s own Of­fice of In­sti­tu­tional Re­search showed that Asian Amer­i­cans would make up 43.4% of the ad­mit­ted class if they were judged purely on aca­demic merit. They now ac­count for about 23% of the class, and 5.6% of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion. The univer­sity has noted that the per­cent­age of Asian-Amer­i­cans in the ad­mit­ted class has grown by 29% in the past decade.

The judge re­jected the ar­gu­ment, say­ing the ben­e­fits of di­ver­sity “will foster the tol­er­ance, ac­cep­tance and un­der­stand­ing that will ul­ti­mately make race con­scious ad­mis­sions ob­so­lete.”

Har­vard’s ad­mis­sions process “serves a com­pelling, per­mis­si­ble and sub­stan­tial in­ter­est,” she added. “Con­sis­tent with the hall­marks of a nar­rowly tai­lored pro­gram, ap­pli­cants are af­forded a holis­tic, in­di­vid­u­al­ized re­view, di­ver­sity is un­der­stood to em­brace a broad range of qual­i­ties and ex­pe­ri­ences and race is used as a plus fac­tor, in a flex­i­ble, non-me­chan­i­cal way.”

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