Opening arguments are set to begin in federal court over Harvard University’s admission system. Harvard, like other Ivy League schools, has a notoriously difficult admission process. However, the latest case centers around whether or not the admission process is more difficult for members of certain groups than others. In this case, that group in question is Asian Americans.
Asian American applicants represented by, Students for Fair Admissions, are alleging that Harvard violates the civil rights of Asian Americans through discriminatory practices in their admission process. Specifically, Harvard is accused of giving an edge to less-qualified applicants from other ethnic groups.
Harvard denies this claim and references past court precedents that approved of the university’s limited use of race in order to expose students to differing viewpoints. Other Ivy League institutions have vocalized support for Harvard to that end. Additionally, some Asian American students and graduates of Harvard plan to testify in favor of Harvard’s admission policies.
This marks the latest battle of affirmative action. The last major decision on that front was given in 2016 via Fisher v. University of Texas in which the Supreme Court found that the University of Texas admission process did not violate any established laws or precedents. That case also involved the group Students for Fair Admissions. Founder of the group, Edward Blum, is a long-time opponent of policies that he views as race-based.
Although the previous attempt by Blum and Students for Fair Admissions to gut affirmative action was shot down by the Supreme Court, the political climate should be friendlier to their most recent challenge, should it make it that far. The deciding vote in the previous case was cast by now-retired Justice Kennedy and Justice Antonin Scalia died right before the decision. The replacements for those two Justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, are likely opponents of affirmative action.
For now, the case is in a lower federal court. Whatever the decision, an appeal is expected.