Harvard Supporters Back University in Admissions Trial

Harvard Supporters Back University in Admissions Trial
Susan Dutca-Lovell

Harvard students and alumni will testify in support of Harvard during the admissions trial this week, defending its "race-conscious admissions policy" against claims that it discriminates against Asian-American applicants. The trial is the latest chapter in a lawsuit filed in 2014 by Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA).

Harvard University has been accused of "balancing its undergraduate classes to ensure that it had admitted its desired share of students of each race and ethnicity" and also for penalizing Asian-American applicants by "systematically giving them lower scores on a metric admissions officers use to measure personality." Adam Mortara, a lawyer representing SFFA, stated that the university scores applicants in four categories: academic achievement, athletic ability, extracurriculars, and personality. While referencing admissions data, he concluded that, despite their higher academic performance, Asian-Americans are admitted at lower rates.

Harvard's lawyer, William Lee points out that, while the university does take race into consideration during the admissions process, applicants are not accepted or denied admission because of their race. Race is one factor of many in "a system full of checks and balances," he says.

The Harvard admissions trial also analyzes a "contentious political issue in higher education": affirmative action. Affirmative action refers to policies that give priority to students from underrepresented racial groups in the college admissions process. While colleges are able to consider race in admissions, it must be one of the many factors considered when evaluating a prospective student for admission. Schools must first use "race-neutral options," such as grades and test scores, to meet their diversity goals.

For some such as Edward Blum, the university's "affirmative action policies amount to an illegal quota system that denies high-achieving Asian-American students admission in numbers commensurate with their qualifications." In Blum's mind, "people should never be judged by the color of their skin," even when it comes to the college admissions process.

In your opinion, should race be considered during the college recruitment and admissions process? Why or why not?

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