Harvard Denies Admission-Bias Claim in Asian-Americans' Suit

(Bloomberg) -- Harvard University assailed a group claiming the school intentionally discriminates against Asian-American applicants, saying in a court filing that the organization offered a “misleading narrative” based on “cherry-picked” documents.

Students for Fair Admissions, which is suing the Ivy League school, claims Harvard ignored statistical evidence from its own researchers showing bias in admissions. The group asked a judge to decide the case in its favor before a trial scheduled for October in Boston, based on court filings. Harvard on Friday responded aggressively, calling the written request "a 45-page press release."

“The evidence fails to show -- let alone beyond dispute -- that Harvard intentionally discriminates against Asian-American applicants,” the school said.

Students for Fair Admissions, which sued in 2014, last month told the judge that it has “incontrovertible" evidence that the university has "engineered the admissions process to achieve" illegal goals. The organization says Asian-Americans are subject to the same kind of quotas that kept many Jews out of Ivy League colleges in the first half of the 20th century -- and the Trump administration has indicated it’s sympathetic to their argument.

The Justice Department weighed in on the case in April, urging the judge to publicly release years of admissions data provided by Harvard. The government said it has a “substantial interest” in the lawsuit because it’s conducting a probe of similar allegations.

Harvard, the wealthiest U.S. university, has asked the judge throw out the case before trial, arguing that admissions data and pretrial witness testimony don’t support the plaintiff’s claims.

"Students for Fair Admissions looks forward to presenting our case at trial in October at which time the remaining redacted data, memos, emails and depositions Harvard refuses to disclose will be made public during testimony," SFFA’s president, Edward Blum, said in an emailed statement.

Harvard said in its brief that the evidence fails to show intentional discrimination or support a claim of “racial balancing." Harvard argued that the group’s own expert witness agreed that the racial composition of a Harvard freshman class "fluctuates significantly" from year to year.

The school said its consideration of race, "as one factor among many" in the admissions process, is legal under U.S. Supreme Court precedent. And it claimed the plaintiff is unable to show how Harvard could provide the educational benefit of a diverse student body while remaining blind to race.

Harvard announced in April that it admitted 4.59 percent of the applicants to its class of 2022. Women represented 50.1 percent of those accepted; African-Americans 15.5 percent; Latinos 12.2 percent; and Native Americans 2 percent, according to the Harvard Crimson. Asian-Americans made up a record 22.7 percent of the class.

The case is Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, 14-cv-14176, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

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