Even though they bring stronger academic records than any other racial group, Asian-Americans who apply to Harvard University face the lowest acceptance rates, according to a study of admissions records filed Friday by a group that’s suing the school over alleged discrimination.
The group, Students for Fair Admissions, says Harvard routinely assigns lower scores to Asian-American students in subjective rating categories meant to measure attributes such as likeability, courage and kindness, putting them at a major disadvantage compared to white students.
Edward Blum, a legal strategist who founded Students for Fair Admissions, issued a statement saying his group’s filing “exposes the startling magnitude of Harvard’s discrimination.”
Harvard blasted the study in an opposing court filing and submitted a countering study that found no evidence of bias. In a statement, the school called the lawsuit an attack on its ability to consider race in admissions, which it says is necessary to gather a racially diverse mix of students.
“Harvard will continue to vigorously defend our right, and that of other colleges and universities nationwide, to seek the educational benefits that come from a class that is diverse on multiple dimensions,” the school said.
The studies were filed in Boston’s federal court as both sides attempted to persuade a judge to end the suit before it reaches trial, which has been scheduled to start in October.
It marked a step forward in a lawsuit that has lasted nearly four years and has drawn the attention of the US Education Department, which is also looking into Harvard’s use of race in admissions.
Both sides built their cases on six years of admissions decisions at Harvard. The records, for students who applied from 2010 through 2015, are barred from the public, but the duelling analyses offered a rare glimpse into the secretive inner workings of the Ivy League school’s admission office.
According to the filings, each applicant is assigned a numerical value in four categories — academic, extracurricular, athletic and personal — along with an overall score that’s meant to be comprehensive but isn’t based on any particular formula.