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Harvard Admissions Trial Underway With Affirmative Action, Diversity Under Scrutiny

Students walk through the Class of 1875 Gate outside Harvard Yard. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Students walk through the Class of 1875 Gate outside Harvard Yard. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Affirmative Action is on trial. Harvard goes to court to defend itself against charges it discriminates against Asian-American applicants. We’ll have the debate.


Max Larkin, multimedia reporter for Edify, WBUR’s education vertical, who has been covering the Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. (SFFA) v. Harvard trial. (@jmlarkin)

Peter Wood, President of the National Association of Scholars (@NASorg), a nonprofit advocacy network of scholars and citizens that focuses on education, and has opposed racial preferences in admissions policies since its founding in 1988. Former provost of The King’s College in New York City. Author of “Diversity: The Invention of a Concept.”

Nicole Gon Ochi, supervising attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice (@AAAJ_AAJC) Los Angeles’s Impact Litigation unit. Her law firm is representing students who are testifying in support of Harvard’s admissions policy.


From The Reading List

NPR: “What To Know About Affirmative Action As The Harvard Trial Begins” — “Does Harvard University discriminate against Asian-Americans in its admissions process?

“That’s the question on trial in a Boston federal courtroom this week. At issue is whether Harvard unfairly discriminated against an Asian-American applicant who says the Ivy League school held him to higher standards than applicants of other races. This trial will also dissect a contentious political issue in higher education: affirmative action.

“But what exactly is affirmative action, and how did it become such a controversial issue?”

WBUR: “On First Day Of Trial, Harvard Dean Of Admissions Defends Process” — ”

“Harvard University’s longtime dean of admissions defended the school in federal court on Monday as a contentious trial over racial considerations in the admissions process began.

“Students for Fair Admissions, the plaintiff in the case, is arguing that there’s no explanation for the racial makeup of Harvard’s first-year classes, except for racial balancing, which the Supreme Court has said is unlawful.

“Lawyers laid out their key arguments in opening statements.”

New Yorker: “The Underlying Attack in the Harvard Admissions Lawsuit” — “A lawsuit claiming that Asian-American students were victims of illegal discrimination in the Harvard College admissions process goes to trial in Boston this week. The plaintiffs assert that Harvard uses what amounts to an unlawful quota system, which results in qualified Asian-Americans being denied admission, in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But, at its core, the lawsuit reflects the American conservative movement’s legal and political assault on people of color, which has been endorsed and abetted by President Trump. The Trump Administration has sought to limit voting rights, backing voter-suppression efforts; it has demonized immigrants; the President himself has repeatedly targeted prominent African-Americans for abuse. The Trump Administration is also supporting the Harvard lawsuit.”

Chronicle of Higher Education: “Harvard Admissions Trial Opens With Arguments Focused on Diversity” — “Harvard University defended its race-conscious admissions policy in a crowded courtroom in Boston on Monday, pushing back against claims that it discriminates against Asian-American applicants. It was the first day of a trial that has come to represent that latest front in the country’s fight over affirmative action in college admissions.

“The university was accused of balancing its undergraduate classes to ensure that it had admitted its desired share of students of each race and ethnicity. Adam Mortara, a lawyer representing Students for Fair Admissions, the plaintiff, also said Harvard penalized Asian-American applicants by systematically giving them lower scores on a metric admissions officers use to measure personality.”

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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