Harvard accused of bias against Asians-Americans at trial

Harvard University

A trial will open here in federal court Monday to weigh accusations that Harvard University's famously competitive undergraduate admissions system is rigged against Asian Americans, a case that could become another landmark in the nation's long debate over affirmative action. One reason this is the case is that many see this case as one that could potentially impact affirmative action policies at other schools.

As the Harvard trial begins, here's what you need to know about affirmative action's history and how it's used today in elite college admissions.

The Trump administration's move is more in line with policy of former President George W Bush that discouraged affirmative action and instead encouraged the use of race-neutral alternatives, like percentage plans and economic diversity programmes.

Does Harvard University discriminate against Asian-Americans in its admissions process?

The Ivy League school is going head-to-head against Students for Fair Admission (SFFA), an organization founded by an anti-affirmative action activist who sued Harvard in 2014, in a closely watched case that could influence the use of race as a factor in college admissions decisions.

Another student, James Matthew said, "race can not be removed effectively from an application just because it is so central to so many people's identity".

Diep, who is studying neurobiology, believes that while his test scores could have been higher, his experience overcoming language and cultural barriers as a young Vietnamese immigrant in the San Fernando Valley helped him get into Harvard.

"In fact, destroying affirmative action writ-large has always been the end goal of Edward Blum, who leads Students for Fair Admissions".


Harvard's lawyers depicted the lawsuit as an attack on the school and many others that consider race as a way to admit a diverse mix of students. Students for Fair Admissions has explicitly said their goal is to overturn that precedent.

Later that month, 16 highly selective universities including Columbia, Duke, Johns Hopkins and Stanford jointly filed an amicus brief with the federal district court in Boston in the Harvard lawsuit.

It also alleges that the university holds Asian students to a higher standard, and forces them to compete against one another for admission. The U.S. Justice Department is also investigating Harvard over alleged discrimination against Asian-Americans, and Yale University was announced as the subject of a similar investigation by the Justice and Education departments in September.

California's Proposition 209 barred state institutions from considering race as part of their admissions process in the late 1990s.

The trial is expected to last two to three weeks.

Though Asian American applicants are exceedingly competitiveness on all objective measures both in academic and extracurricular criteria, they are consistently rated the lowest by the college's personality trait ratings, said Yukong Zhao, co-founder and president of the group Asian American Coalition for Education, a major organizer of the rally. Civil rights advocates also plan to call African American and Latino students to testify about the importance of racial awareness on campus.

Harvard has denied the charges, saying Asian-Americans account for 23 percent of the students admitted to this year's freshman class.

According to a leaked email, Kavanaugh said the University of MI policy was "unconstitutional because race-neutral programs should be employed, where possible, to achieve the goal of ensuring diversity and ensuring that minorities have access to and are represented in universities". The recent arrival of Kennedy's replacement, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, strengthened the court's conservative majority and could signal a new approach if it revisits the issue.

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