12:56, June 15 341 0 theguardian.com

2018-06-15 12:56:31
Harvard sued for alleged discrimination against Asian American applicants

An Asian American group suing Harvard University says it has evidence of discrimination in the school’s admissions process.

But Harvard is attacking the group’s analysis and says it has countering evidence disproving discrimination, in a closely watched case involving affirmative action.

Harvard killed an internal investigation in 2013 that found evidence the Ivy League school’s admissions system is biased against Asian American applicants, in favor of other minorities, a non-profit group suing the elite private college alleged in a court filing on Friday.

The claim by Students for Fair Admissions came in a brief that sought to have a federal judge in Boston rule in its favor without a trial, in a high-profile lawsuit accusing Harvard of discriminating against Asian Americans.

The group is headed by Edward Blum, who is a prominent voice against the concept of affirmative action to boost underrepresented minority groups in college admissions in the US.

He said evidence showed that Harvard had allowed race to become a dominant consideration in weighing applicants rather than just a legally allowed “plus” factor, but that the system weighed against Asian Americans.

“Incontrovertible evidence shows that Harvard’s admissions policy has a disproportionately negative effect on Asian Americans vis-a-vis similarly situated white applicants that cannot be explained on non-discriminatory grounds,” the group said in its brief.

Harvard, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, filed its own brief on Friday denying discrimination against Asian Americans.

In court papers, Students for Fair Admissions claimed an Asian American male applicant with a 25% chance of admission would have a 35% chance if he was white, 75% if he were Hispanic and a 95% chance if he were black.

The brief did not provide a similar breakdown for women.

It said that in 2013, a Harvard research division found that, over the course of a decade, Asian American admission rates were lower than those for whites annually even though whites only outperformed Asian American applicants on a subjective rating of a student’s personality.

But the group said Harvard ultimately killed the study and buried the reports from it.

The group in its 2014 complaint said Harvard defines “Asian Americans” as including individuals of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Hmong or Indian descent.

In Friday’s brief, Harvard said the percentage of Asian Americans it admitted had actually grown by 29% over the last decade. It called the 2013 report “preliminary and incomplete” and said that it was done with limited admissions data.

The US supreme court has ruled universities may use affirmative action to help minority applicants get into college. Conservatives have said such programs can hurt white people and Asian Americans.

In 2016, the nation’s highest court rejected a high-profile challenge to a University of Texas program designed to boost the enrollment of minority students, which was brought by a white woman.

Blum had originally found and supported the woman who pursued that case.

In its brief, Harvard called the lawsuit by Blum’s group “the latest salvo by ideological opponents of the consideration of race in university admissions”.

After Donald Trump became the US president last year, the justice department began investigating whether Harvard’s policies are discriminatory because they limit the acceptance of Asian Americans.

The justice department has since signaled its interest in Students for Fair Admissions’ case, which has an October trial date.