Harvard Says Students and Alums Should Testify at Bias Trial

(Bloomberg) -- Harvard University wants black, Latino, Native-American and Asian-American students to explain why race should factor into college admissions.

The university on Friday told a judge that it backs a request from students and alumni to participate in an Oct. 15 trial over whether Harvard intentionally discriminates in admissions. The Ivy League school is defending a lawsuit by the group Students for Fair Admissions claiming the process is biased against Asian-Americans.

Students and alumni “can offer important and distinctive perspectives on the importance of a racially diverse student body at Harvard,” the school said in a filing in federal court in Boston. Their testimony "would be of use to the court about the salience of race in the witnesses’ lived experiences."

The group, which says it represents Asian-Americans rejected by the school, accuses Harvard of engaging in “racial balancing.” Harvard denies the allegation, though it does admit to considering race in admissions decisions, as permitted by the U.S. Supreme Court.

One alumna who seeks to testify, Margaret Chin, a Chinese-American from the class of 1984, wrote in a court filing Friday that she conducts interviews for the college with applicants from New York’s Stuyvesant High School, her alma mater.

"Every year, we see many highly accomplished applicants get rejected, and that can be heartbreaking," wrote Chin, who is a tenured professor at Hunter College in New York. "While I am not aware of every aspect of the Harvard interviewing or admissions processes, I have not personally observed the differential treatment of Asian-American applicants interviewed by our subcommittee compared to applicants of other races or ethnicities."

Students for Fair Admissions argued last month that current and former students shouldn’t be allowed to inject their testimony into a case that’s now four years old, saying all they’re offering is “improper opinion testimony.” The group is led by Edward Blum, a conservative legal strategist who’s been involved in prior challenges to affirmative-action policies.

Harvard 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.

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