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Education

Harvard ‘is biased against Asian-Americans’, US court is told as rejected applicants sue

The Ivy League school is defending how it chooses its students after it’s accused of ‘engineering the application process’

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 June, 2018, 12:06am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 June, 2018, 5:00am

Harvard University engages in “racial balancing” that brazenly discriminates against Asian-American seeking admittance in the same way the university once set quotas on Jewish students, a group of applicants said on Friday in asking for a ruling before a trial.

The Ivy League school is defending how it chooses its students after a lawsuit by a group representing more than a dozen Asian-American applicants who were rejected.

The group, which sued in 2014, told a federal judge in Boston on Friday that they have obtained “incontrovertible” evidence the university has “engineered the admissions process to achieve” illegal goals.

Lawyers for Harvard asked the court to throw out the case. In a motion filed on Friday, Harvard said its admissions data and testimony taken during depositions do not support claims by the group, called Students for Fair Admissions.

“SFFA is left to offer only gerrymandered statistics to support its claims, but that evidence is far too flawed to support a finding of discrimination at trial,” Harvard’s legal team wrote.

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Lawyers for the students claimed leaders of Harvard’s admission team were evasive during depositions and appeared to suffer memory problems.

“The process is readily subject to manipulation, as history and the data amply demonstrate. The data showed massive discrimination against Asian-Americans – and Harvard knew it,” they said. “Harvard has a desired racial balance and aims for that target.”

Harvard said in a statement that it does not discriminate against any group and that evidence shows the rate of admissions for Asian-American students has grown 29 per cent over the last decade.

The school criticised Edward Blum, the leader of the plaintiffs’ group.

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“Mr. Blum and his organisation’s incomplete and misleading data analysis paint a dangerously inaccurate picture of Harvard College’s whole-person admissions process by omitting critical data and information factors, such as personal essays and teacher recommendations, that directly counter his arguments,” the university said in a statement.

Harvard also claims Students for Fair Admissions “is merely a vehicle to litigate the ideological preferences” of Blum and has no standing to sue the university.

The US Justice Department said in April it has a “substantial interest” in the case and urged the judge to make the admissions data public.

Harvard noted in response that it has already provided the information to the government for its investigation into the school’s admissions practices – an inquiry, it added, that did not begin until Jeff Sessions became US attorney general.

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Harvard announced that it admitted 4.59 per cent of the applicants to its class of 2022.

Women represented 50.1 per cent of those accepted; African-Americans 15.5 per cent; Latinos 12.2 per cent; and Native Americans 2 per cent, according to the Harvard Crimson. Asian-Americans made up a record 22.7 per cent of the class.