Oct 15, 2018

Suit alleging Harvard's admissions bias heads to trial

Harvard Yard. Photo: Getty Images

A lawsuit challenging Harvard University’s admissions practices — claiming discrimination against Asian-American applicants by holding them to a higher standard — will head to trial in a Boston federal court on Monday.

Why it matters: The case could have far-reaching consequences in college admissions at a time when the country’s polarized climate continues to stoke racial and political divisions.

The details: Officials, alumni, and students from the Ivy League school will take the stand to examine the admissions policies. Harvard, one of the most selective universities in the world, had said it does not discriminate but instead uses race as one of many factors to build classes of diverse backgrounds.

  • The case was brought by Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit group known for orchestrating legal challenges to affirmative action practices and voting rights laws in recent years.

What they're saying: Asian-Americans are divided on the case. Some, including groups like Asian Americans Advancing Justice, said they are being used by conservatives as a wedge to abolish affirmative action.

  • Edward Blum, the head of Students for Fair Admissions, told the Washington Post: "The cornerstone mission of [my] organization is to eliminate the use of race and ethnicity in college admissions. Period. We make no bones about that."
  • The case drew support from the Trump Justice Department, which has filed a statement of interest in the challenge, and has also recently opened inquiries into complaints of discrimination against Asian-Americans at Harvard and Yale.

The big picture: This could be a landmark case that might reach the Supreme Court, which upheld a race-conscious admissions program at the University of Texas at Austin in 2016. In that case, a white student whom Blum recruited to sue the university said she was discriminated against because of her race and UT's affirmative action policies.

Go deeper: The cracks in the college admissions system.

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Trump's clemency spree

Rod Blagojevich in 2010. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

President Trump announced Tuesday that he commuted former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's 14-year prison sentence for extortion, bribery and corruption — as well as issuing full pardons for former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik and financier Michael Milken.

The big picture: The president's clemency spree largely benefitted white-collar criminals convicted of crimes like corruption, gambling fraud and racketeering, undercutting his message of "draining the swamp."

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Trump's improbable moonshot

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

NASA is unlikely to meet its deadline of sending astronauts to the surface of the Moon by 2024, even with a large influx of funding.

Why it matters: The Artemis mission to send people back to the Moon is the Trump administration's flagship space policy, and its aggressive, politically-motivated timeline is its hallmark.

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Justice Department says U.S. attorneys are reviewing Ukraine information

Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd sent a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) Tuesday informing him that the U.S. attorneys for the Eastern District of New York and the Western District of Pennsylvania are reviewing "unsolicited" information from the public related to matters involving Ukraine.

Why it matters: Nadler had requested an explanation for the "intake process" that Attorney General Bill Barr stated had been set up in order to receive information that Rudy Giuliani had obtained about the Bidens in Ukraine.