Nov 12, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Appeals court: Harvard did not violate federal civil rights law in admissions process

Harvard University in Cambridge of Massachusetts

Harvard University in Massachusetts. Photo: Fan Lin/Xinhua via Getty Images

An appeals court on Thursday upheld a decision that found Harvard University's admissions process does not violate the federal civil rights law Title VI.

The big picture: The ruling marks a defeat for nonprofit Students for Fair Admission, which argued in a 2014 lawsuit against Harvard that Asian American applicants were held to a higher admission standard compared to Black and Hispanic students.

  • The case exposed details of Harvard's admission preferences and student body makeup that were not influenced by race, like legacies, children of big donors and athletes.

What they're saying: "The level of variation in the share of admitted Asian American applicants is inconsistent with a quota, as is the fact that the share of admitted Asian Americans co-varies almost perfectly with the share of Asian American applicants," the decision says.

  • "The amount by which the share of admitted Asian American applicants fluctuates is greater than the amount by which the share of Asian American applicants fluctuates."
  • "Harvard's limited use of race in its admission program survives strict scrutiny."

What to watch: The decision could lead to a review by the Supreme Court.

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