Federal Appeals Court Upholds Harvard University’s Race-Based Admissions

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A United States federal appeals court ruled in favor of Harvard University’s use of race-based admissions last week.

The 104-page ruling comes after a federal judge’s 2019 decision that found Harvard does not discriminate against Asian American applicants. The federal litigation stems from a 2014 lawsuit filed by anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA).

“The consideration of race, alongside many other factors, helps us achieve our goal of creating a student body that enriches the education of every student. Diversity also represents a pathway for excellence for both Harvard and the nation,” Harvard president Lawrence S. Bacow said in a statement.

The plaintiff’s claimed the admissions criteria Harvard uses for personality rating is intentionally vague, allowing admissions officers to systematically assign Asian Americans low scores and give preference to Black and Hispanic applicants.

Edward Blum, president of SFFA and a longtime anti-affirmative action activist, plans to appeal the case.

“While we are disappointed with the opinion of the First Circuit Court of Appeals, our hope is not lost, Blum said in a statement. “This lawsuit is now on track to go up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where we will ask the justices to end these unfair and unconstitutional race-based admissions policies at Harvard and all colleges and universities.”

The court’s decision comes after the Trump administration vowed to investigate colleges it suspects of using unfair affirmative action policies. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has expressed support for SFFA and most recently sided with the students in August, after it conducted a two-year investigation on Yale University, accusing the Ivy-League school of discriminating against Whites and Asian Americans. 

The SFFA has also filed lawsuits against University of Texas at Austin and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the latter started oral arguments last week and expected to conclude on November 20, The Daily Tar Heel reports.

“Harvard’s admissions policies are consistent with Supreme Court precedent, and lawfully and appropriately pursue Harvard’s efforts to create a diverse campus that promotes learning and encourages mutual respect and understanding in our community,” Harvard spokesperson Rachael Dane said in a statement. “As we have said time and time again, now is not the time to turn back the clock on diversity and opportunity.”