On October 1, U.S. District Court Judge Allison Burroughs ruled that Harvard’s admissions program does not discriminate against Asian American students and “passes constitutional muster” while acknowledging that it “is not perfect.” Burroughs added that as long as race-conscious admission policies meet the Supreme Court’s strict scrutiny standard, they “have an important place in society and help ensure that colleges and universities can offer a diverse atmosphere that fosters learning, improves scholarship, and encourages mutual respect and understanding.”
Plaintiff Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. (SFFA) had alleged that Harvard College (the institution’s undergraduate division) discriminates against Asian American applicants in the undergraduate admissions process in violation of the Civil Rights Act. Harvard acknowledged that its admissions process considers races as one factor among many but claimed its use of race was “consistent with applicable law.”
In 2018, NACUBO joined 35 other higher education associations in signing on to the American Council on Education’s amicus brief on the case, which argued the case was an attempt to end consideration of race in admissions and “the restriction of a university’s ability to assemble a diverse student body.” The amicus brief asserted that admissions criteria substantially vary between institutions while incorporating a range of quantitative and qualitative factors. “The admissions process involves academic judgments, and the point of holistic review is to provide applicants with individualized consideration based on the totality of the circumstances,” the associations wrote.
In a statement, Edward Blum, the president of SFFA said the organization would appeal the decision to the Court of Appeals “and, if necessary, to the U.S. Supreme Court.”