Justice Department Supports Asian-American Students Suing Harvard In Affirmative Action Lawsuit

The Justice Department on Thursday sided with the group of students who are suing Harvard University for discrimination against Asian-American applicants. 

Edward Blum with Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) are suing the elite university for its race-conscious admission policies. The group says that the use of affirmative action policies in college admission systematically discriminates and limits the acceptance of Asian-American students.

The Justice Department said in a court filing that the school fails to demonstrate that it does not discriminate on the basis of race. The DOJ also said that the school uses its admission policy to “racially balance” its student body, which is argued to be unconstitutional. 

“Harvard has failed to carry its demanding burden to show that its use of race does not inflict unlawful racial discrimination on Asian Americans,” the DOJ said in its filing, according to the New York Times

“The evidence, moreover, shows that Harvard provides no meaningful criteria to cabin its use of race; uses a vague ‘personal rating’ that harms Asian-American applicants’ chances for admission and may be infected with racial bias; engages in unlawful racial balancing; and has never seriously considered race-neutral alternatives in its more than 45 years of using race to make admissions decisions.”  The DOJ also finds that the university does not explain enough how race plays in their admissions decisions.

The Supreme Court allows colleges and universities to consider race in admissions, but they have to meet certain standards. According to the New York Times, they must create their own “diversity-related goals and show that they cannot meet those goals without using race as a factor in admissions decisions.”

The DOJ’s filing is a major step for the Trump administrations entry into the affirmative action dialogue. The lawsuit could potentially have implications on the diversity policies of other colleges and universities in the future. According to the New York Times, the Department of Education and Justice Department got rid of the Obama-era policies asking colleges to diversify their campuses by factoring in race

Affirmative action was meant to address the ongoing systemic bias in college admissions that denied (and even still deny) many students of color from acceptances into schools across the nation. It’s a tool to help colleges and universities to build a more diverse and more inclusive student body. 

The Justice Department has recommended that the court deny Harvard’s request for a case dismissal. The case is planned to go on trial in Boston in October.