The Department of Justice on Tuesday filed an amicus brief in support of an organization suing Harvard and alleging their raced-based admissions process violates federal civil rights law and Supreme Court precedent.
The DOJ released a statement announcing its amicus brief, saying Harvard accepts federal money and must adhere to civil rights laws.
“Race discrimination hurts people and is never benign,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division. “Unconstitutionally partitioning Americans into racial and ethnic blocs harms all involved by fostering stereotypes, bitterness, and division among the American people. The Department of Justice will continue to fight against illegal race discrimination.”
At issue is the accusation from Students for Fair Admissions, an education organization representing students and parents, that Harvard discriminates against Asian-American applicants during the application process. SFA has sued Harvard, and a district judge has denied Harvard’s attempts to get the lawsuit dismissed.
“Although the Supreme Court has held that colleges receiving federal funds may consider applicants’ race in certain limited circumstances, the district court’s factual findings demonstrated that Harvard’s use of race is anything but limited. The district court concluded that ‘more than one third of the admitted Hispanics and more than half of the admitted African Americans, would most likely not be admitted in the absence of Harvard’s race-conscious admissions process,’” the DOJ statement said. “And these race-based bonuses come at a significant cost to Asian-American applicants, who collectively suffer a substantial penalty under Harvard’s race-based admissions regime. Nevertheless, the district court concluded that Harvard’s use of race in the admissions process did not violate federal law or Supreme Court precedent.”
“The United States’ amicus brief explains that the evidence at trial showed ‘that Harvard actively engages in racial balancing that Supreme Court precedent flatly forbids,’” the DOJ continued. “The evidence also demonstrated that Harvard’s admissions officers consistently score Asian American applicants lower on the so-called ‘personal rating.’ ‘In other words,’ the brief explains, ‘Harvard’s admissions officers tended to evaluate Asian Americans, as compared to members of other racial groups, as having less integrity, being less confident, constituting less-qualified leaders, and so on.’ ‘That disparity,’ the brief points out, ‘is undisputed, and unexplained.’ For these and other reasons, the United States urged the appellate court to reverse the district court’s judgment.”
Here’s how Harvard discriminates against Asian-Americans: First, admissions officers assign a numerical rating to each applicant, from 1 to 4. The numerical ratings refer to the academic, extracurricular, athletic, and personal ratings for each applicant. As the DOJ said in its brief, “Throughout the admissions cycle, admissions leaders closely monitor the racial composition of the applicant pool and tentatively admitted students and compare them to the previous year’s racial composition.”
The kick comes from the “personal rating,” where admissions officers used race as a factor in their rating, though officers testified they didn’t use race. Statistics showed that Asian-Americans had lower personal ratings, and that if those ratings were removed, the makeup of Harvard’s incoming freshman classes would be significantly different. It was argued in court that race was indeed a factor in the “personal ratings” for incoming applicants.