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Harvard University campus. Photo: Brooks Kraft/Corbis via Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday ruled in favor of Harvard’s race conscious admissions process, finding that the university did not discriminate against Asian American applicants.

Why it matters: The long-awaited decision reaffirms an admissions process that considers race and how diversity should influence the makeup of an incoming class. The ruling, which could be appealed, may impact recruitment programs and financial aid.

Background: Students for Fair Admissions filed a lawsuit in 2014, arguing that Harvard's admissions office holds Asian Americans to a higher standard and uses a subjective "personal rating" to limit their admission to the elite Ivy League school.

  • Lawyers for Harvard argued that Asian American applicants do not get penalized, but that black and Latin American students do sometimes get a “tip” when admissions officers are awarding an overall score for applicants.
  • The ruling said that the anti-affirmative action challenger did not present "a single admissions file that reflected discriminatory animus." The school’s admissions process is sound with Supreme Court precedents and does not violate federal civil rights law, the judge found.
"Removing considerations of race and ethnicity from Harvard’s admissions process entirely would deprive applicants, including Asian American applicants, of their right to advocate the value of their unique background, heritage, and perspective."
— U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs

The big picture: When Harvard was forced to reveal its secret method during trial, it revealed that it gave Asian American applicants lower ratings on average than applicants of other races in categories that included "positive personality" and being "widely respected," per an analysis of more than 160,000 student records.

  • Americans have long shown a dislike for considering race and ethnicity in the college admissions process. A survey from the Pew Research Center in February found that 73% of Americans believe it should not be a factor.

Between the lines: The admissions process is just as much about admitting Ivy League legacies, children of big donors and athletes as pitting Asian Americans up against Latino and black applicants.

What they're saying: House Education and Labor chairman and Harvard grad Bobby Scott (D-Va) supported the district court's decision, saying in a statement that it it "affirms the constitutionality of admissions policies that recognize that there is a compelling interest in advancing a diverse student body."

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
8 mins ago - Economy & Business

Our make-believe economy

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Federal Reserve and global central banks are remaking the world's economy in an effort to save it, but have created something of a monster.

Why it matters: The Fed-driven economy relies on the creation of trillions of dollars — literally out of thin air — that are used to purchase bonds and push money into a pandemic-ravaged economy that has long been dependent on free cash and is only growing more addicted.

New hope for "smart cities"

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's time to polish our gleaming vision of urban environments where internet technology makes everything from finding a parking space to measuring air quality a snap.

Why it matters: The Biden administration's Cabinet appointees are likely to be champions of bold futurism in urban planning — which could mean that smart infrastructure projects, like broadband deployment and digital city services, get fresh funding and momentum.

4 hours ago - World

Hong Kong pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai detained on fraud charge

An activist holds a placard highlighting China's Tiananmen Square massacre as pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai arrives at West Kowloon Magistrates' Court in Hong Kong in November. Photo: Isaac Wong/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai is being detained until an April court hearing after the pro-democracy supporter was charged Thursday with fraud, per his Apple Daily news outlet.

Why it matters: The 72-year-old's arrest and denial of bail is another blow for the pro-democracy movement in the former British colony amid concerns about a fresh crackdown on activists.

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