A pending lawsuit against Harvard University by Asian Americans could significantly alter Affirmative Action as it exists today.
In 2014, Students for Fair Admissions filed a lawsuit on behalf of Asian students against Harvard and asserted that the school discriminated against them during admissions. On November 2, 2018, the initial district court phase came to a close. As the nation awaits the ruling, the motivations and potential impact of this case must be examined and identified. If Harvard has a bias problem, this case would hardly be addressing it.
SFFA, the plaintiff, claims that Harvard holds Asian students to a higher standard and favors Black and Latino students during the admissions process. The lawsuit could reverse many racial policies, including precedents from Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, a 1978 Supreme Court case. The ruling made racial quotas unconstitutional but allows colleges to use race as one factor in admitting students.
Reversing these policies means that colleges would admit students solely on test scores and would not account for socioeconomic background. Students across the country who do not have access to the same resources would be negatively affected.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “Harvard, like many selective universities, employs a holistic review of applicants that assesses their grades and test scores, extracurricular activities, athletic achievement and personal qualities.”
At prestigious Ivy League universities, considering aspects other than grades alone is necessary when choosing the student population.
SFFA alleges that taking away the race factor during admissions will eliminate discrimination, but experts have noted that the opposite is true. NPR reported, “leaders in the higher education world say taking away race-conscious admissions would result in homogeneous classes.”
In addition, the notion that Harvard preferences other minorities over Asians indicates a few different issues.
On one hand, Asian Americans’ concerns about Harvard’s potential discrimination problem must not be entirely discredited. Racial bias in an existing issue both on and off campus. However, this lawsuit would not help attempts to end racial bias.
“Asian-Americans — about 6% of the U.S. population — made up nearly 23% of Harvard’s most recent class of admitted students,” according to Time Magazine, “while African American students made up 15% and Hispanic or Latino students made up 12%.”
Meanwhile, white students remain mostly unaffected by this case. It should be understood that challenging Affirmative Action policies will harm students of color, especially those who SFFA claims Harvard preferences.
Furthermore, SFFA’s intentions are not as transparent as they seem. The group was founded by Edward Blum, a conservative activist, “who has has devised a series of claims against racial policies, including an earlier affirmative action lawsuit on behalf of Abigail Fisher against the University of Texas and several challenges to the 1965 Voting Rights Act,” according to CNN.
Fisher and other white plaintiffs supported by Blum have targeted minority groups. Now, Blum is utilizing Asian Americans in order to further his past attempts. This case has become exploitative and will further the disparity between students of color and white students.
It is not a surprise that the Trump administration has defended this case. In August 2018, the Justice Department gave its support to the Asian American group. Conservatives have noted that the outcome of this case can progress their longstanding anti Affirmative Action ideals.
Attorneys from both sides expect the case to reach the Supreme Court. If so, it could set a precedent for other similar cases. The fight against discrimination continues, but changing Affirmative Action will effectively injure progress made in the past.
Harvard University has been assisted by the ACLU, donate here to add your support.