Last week, Judge Allison Burroughs of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts sided with Harvard University and upheld its race-conscious admissions program, as existing Supreme Court precedent does permit universities to consider an applicant’s race as one criteria for admissions.
Critics point out that Harvard’s approach has allowed admissions officers to engage in blatant discrimination on the basis of skin color. The plaintiff in the Harvard case, Students for Fair Admissions Inc., contended that Asian-American applicants are specifically disfavored under a race-conscious admissions policy, and that this violates federal civil rights law. They presented considerable evidence that admissions officers gave them low ratings on subjective grounds like personality. Meanwhile, the plaintiffs argued, Harvard did everything possible to artificially engineer a campus that was well-represented by students from “sparse country“—the South and the Great Plains—and thus significantly more white than it would have been otherwise.
Students for Fair Admissions, Inc., plans to appeal the case. It could eventually end up before the Supreme Court, where the new, clear-cut conservative majority may be inclined to revise the previous decisions that limited, but left intact, certain race-based admissions schemes.
While the judge suggests training to avoid implicit bias, the problem is the university appears to be specifically favoring certain racial groups over others in an effort to make the campus less Asian.