BOSTON (AP) — Harvard University does not discriminate against Asian Americans in its admissions process, a federal judge ruled Tuesday in a lawsuit that reignited a national debate over affirmative action.
U.S. District Judge Allison D. Burroughs said in her decision that Harvard’s admissions process is “not perfect” but passes constitutional muster. She said there is “no evidence of any racial animus whatsoever” and no evidence that any admission decision was “negatively affected by Asian American identity.”
The group behind the suit, Students for Fair Admissions, says it will appeal the decision.
“Students for Fair Admissions is disappointed that the court has upheld Harvard’s discriminatory admissions policies,” Edward Blum, the group’s president, said in a statement. “We believe that the documents, emails, data analysis and depositions SFFA presented at trial compellingly revealed Harvard’s systematic discrimination against Asian-American applicants.”
Harvard did not immediately provide comment.
Both sides have been readying for a possible review by the Supreme Court, which last examined affirmative action in 2016 and upheld the practice at the University of Texas.
In the case at Harvard, the group argued that Asian Americans were held to a higher standard in admissions, amounting to an “Asian penalty,” while the school gave preference to black and Hispanic students with poorer grades.
Much of the suit centered on a subjective “personal rating” that Harvard assigns to applicants. The suit argued that Asian Americans consistently receive lower personal ratings because of racial bias, leading many to be rejected despite having strong academic records.