Harvard Admissions Case In Progress


The class action lawsuit against Harvard University has begun, with the defendant’s arguments focused on the value of diversity. The university is charged with discriminating against Asian-Americans based on its “race-conscious” policy.

In the closely watched case in Boston, the plaintiff argued that Harvard’s system of rating students on academic achievement, athletic ability, extracurriculars, and personality encourages skewed ratings in the last category based on race. The plaintiff attorney said, “Diversity is not on trial here,” and instead explained that Asian-American applicants are admitted at lower rates than they would be based on their academic achievement.

Harvard sent letters to students in underrepresented states if they scored well on their PSATs. But the encouragement to apply varied based on race. White students needed at least 1310 on the verbal and math sections in these states; however, nationwide, Black, Hispanic, and Native American students needed at least 1100. For Asian-American students, the threshold was higher: 1350 for females and 1380 for males.

Harvard defended its practices, claiming the university “cannot achieve educational goals without considering race.” The defendant’s attorney gave the diverse courtroom as an example of the benefit of the university’s policy. Also in defense, a representative from the NAACP said, “A colorblind approach means that you close your eyes to the full lived experiences of applicants.” Part of Harvard’s defense is that people cannot be separated from their race—it is part of the whole of who they are.

Harvard image source. Harvard library image source.


  • What’s your view of Harvard’s admissions policy?

  • How might you have been advantaged or disadvantaged by affirmative action practices in applying to school or to jobs? How, if at all, does your experience factor into your perspective?

  • The plaintiffs argue that Harvard is secretive about its approach. What is the value of keeping an admissions policy private, and how could this privacy be harmful?