Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Harvard Answers Back on Affirmative Action

"New briefs from university provide an inside look at terms like "standard strong" and examples of Asian applicants whose ethnicity was viewed favorably and dispute statistical analysis provided by those claiming anti-Asian bias.

In June, the group suing Harvard University over alleged anti-Asian bias in admissions released a slew of documents to back its case. The documents suggested that it is much more difficult for Asian-American applicants than for comparably qualified others to get into Harvard (where it's difficult for anyone to get in). Some of this related to Harvard's preferences for alumni children and athletes, preferences that the university has long acknowledged but to which it has not drawn attention.
There were also documents suggesting that low-income Asian applicants don't get the same help in admissions as do low-income applicants of other groups. While a single set of briefs doesn't determine the legal outcome in court cases, the June filings were a public relations win for Students for Fair Admissions, the group suing Harvard. Much of the coverage was critical of the university, with even some supporters of affirmative action saying that Harvard didn't look good.
Harvard disputed the filings at the time, but Friday was the university's turn to file its lengthy legal arguments. Technically, the briefs are about whether the federal court considering the case should award summary judgment (deciding the case without a full trial). But the Harvard documents also provide insight into how the university is mounting its defense, which by proxy may be a defense for other colleges to consider race in admissions.
With the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy from the Supreme Court and subsequent uncertainty over support for affirmative action on the high court, the Harvard case has arguably become more important than it was to start with -- and is increasingly seen as the next case likely to work its way to the Supreme Court. And advocates are not wasting any time. While critics of affirmative action (including the Trump administration) are backing the lawsuit, a coalition of civil rights organization plans to file briefs backing Harvard today.
Harvard's brief characterizes the Students for Fair Admissions arguments as "misleading" and lacking "a shred of documentary or testimonial evidence of the alleged scheme" to discriminate against Asian applicants. The Harvard documents quoted by the plaintiffs "are cherry-picked and misleadingly presented," the brief says. Along with contesting the lawsuit's claims, the Harvard brief also provides some inside information on how applicants are considered (and typically rejected).
Edward Blum, who is leading the Students for Fair Admissions effort, said via email that his group would soon be releasing yet more Harvard documents to bolster its case, and he said that his group's lawsuit would prevail. He did not withdraw any of the statements the group has made to date."

No comments: