BOSTON – A judge has ruled in favor of Harvard University regarding the lawsuit that alleged that Asian Americans have to clear a higher bar than other races to be accepted to the famous college.
Federal District Court Judge Allison D. Burroughs issued her decision Tuesday, saying "the Court finds no persuasive documentary evidence of any racial animus or conscious prejudice against Asian Americans." In the decision, Burroughs said that while Harvard's admissions program is "not perfect," "ensuring diversity at Harvard relies, in part, on race conscious admissions."
Now, this is a fairly straightforward case with a complex backstory and potentially massive stakes. Let's break it down for you.
First, let's establish that affirmative action itself is a very grey area. There is no law that says colleges and universities must take race into account when granting admission. In fact, the Civil Rights act of 1964 made it illegal to discriminate against anyone on the basis of race and gender. But college admissions gets tricky, because they admit students based on a wide variety of factors, race occasionally being one of them.
Since 1964, some colleges have openly used affirmative action to desegregate their schools, and many cases have gone to the Supreme Court. The rulings have not always been consistent and thus the legality of race-conscious admissions remains in discussion still.
Which leads us back to Harvard.
Basically, an advocacy group is arguing that Asian Americans have to work harder to get into Harvard. Take this hypothetical: Harvard University admissions staff realize that they have admitted 30% Asian American students for a freshman class, and 3% African American and 3% Latinx. Now, Asian Americans make up only 5.6% of the US population, while African Americans make up 13% and Latinx's make up around 18%. Based on those numbers, the staff could argue they really should be accepting more African Americans and Latinx's because the national population is completely underrepresented in the Harvard population.
That's the argument for affirmative action in a nutshell.
The advocacy group, however, argues that perfectly qualified Asian Americans who worked incredibly hard (and are a minority!) are being discriminated against.
The decision, which ruled against the advocacy group, will be appealed. Keep an eye on this one: if it makes it to the Supreme Court, this will become a national debate very quickly.