US's Harvard wins race discrimination case

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Oct 02 2019 06:51 AM

Philosophy students cheer as they receive their degrees during the 368th Commencement Exercises at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US, May 30, 2019. Brian Snyder, Reuters/file

NEW YORK - A US judge on Tuesday ruled that Harvard is right to consider race when admitting students, rejecting claims that the prestigious university discriminates against Asian-American applicants.

A lawsuit, backed by President Donald Trump's administration, had challenged Harvard's use of race in determining admissions, part of a decades-old push to boost minority enrollments at America's oldest university.

Federal Judge Allison Dale Burroughs said that while Harvard's admissions process is not perfect, it was right, for now, to factor in race to form a diverse student body.

"The rich diversity at Harvard and other colleges and universities and the benefits that flow from that diversity will foster the tolerance, acceptance and understanding that will ultimately make race-conscious admissions obsolete," she said.

The case was brought by Students for Fair Admissions, a group led by conservative white activist Edward Blum, who previously attacked the affirmative action policies at the University of Texas.

The US Supreme Court ruled against him in 2016, upholding the university's admissions policy.

Lawyers for the plaintiff argued that Harvard had used personality criteria to suppress Asian admissions in favor of black, Hispanic and white applicants.

Harvard denied discriminating against Asians but defended its use of broader selection criteria than academic excellence, such as personality, when considering who to admit.

The university noted during the 3-week non-jury civil trial last October that its proportion of students of Asian origin has increased substantially since 2010.

Trump's administration backed the suit, asserting that Harvard engages in "racial balancing" in its admissions process at the expense of students of Asian origin.

Burroughs ruled that Harvard's admissions process "passes constitutional muster."

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