Health Care

Federal judge rules Harvard's affirmative action policy is not discriminatory

Federal judge rules Harvard's affirmative action policy is not discriminatory”

Harvard University does not discriminate against Asian Americans in its admissions process, a federal judge ruled Tuesday in a lawsuit that reignited a national debate over affirmative action.

The judge rejected the claim that white, black and Hispanic applicants were given preference over Asian counterparts with similar grades. "Harvard's admission program passes constitutional muster in that it satisfies the dictates of strict scrutiny".

In a statement, Bill Lee, Harvard's lead attorney, said the ruling "unequivocally affirms that Harvard does not discriminate on the basis of race in its admissions process, and that Harvard's pursuit of the diverse student body central to its educational mission is lawful".

Harvard is one of the top-rated and most selective universities in the United States, admitting about 1,600 freshman students out of 42,000 applicants each year.

Students for Fair Admissions argues "UNC's use of race is the opposite of individualized; UNC uses race mechanically to ensure the admission of the vast majority of underrepresented minorities", according to the plaintiffs' brief filed in January 2019.

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It was formed by conservative activist Edward Blum, who opposes affirmative action - the proactive effort to include minorities that have been historically marginalised due to discrimination.

Students for Fair Admissions has also taken legal action against the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, over alleged discrimination against Asian-American applicants. "Harvard does not employ a race-based quota, set aside seats for minority students, or otherwise 'define diversity as 'some specified percentage of a particular group merely because of its race or ethnic origin'". "Harvard's admissions dean and other witnesses defended the university against a lawsuit alleging the school imposed a penalty on Asian-American applicants by holding them to a higher standard than applicants of other races".

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs sided with Harvard, writing in her decision that although the school's admissions process is "not ideal", there is "no evidence of any racial animus whatsoever", the Associated Press reported.

Her ruling, dated Monday, comes nearly a year after she presided over a clash of statistical and legal arguments at trial at the Moakley Courthouse in Boston.

"We are gratified that this decision unambiguously respects more than four decades of U.S. Supreme Court precedent", Mitchell said in a statement published by the Globe, which added that the "council and 36 other higher education groups filed court documents in the case supporting Harvard's admissions process".

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