Opponents of racial preferences urge court to overturn pro-Harvard admissions ruling

Students take their seats for the diploma ceremony at the John F. Kennedy School of Government during the 361st Commencement Exercises at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts May 24, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

A group opposed to the use of race in college admissions on Tuesday urged a federal appeals court to overturn a judge’s ruling last fall that Harvard University does not intentionally discriminate against Asian Americans when it selects a class.

Students for Fair Admissions, the plaintiff in a civil lawsuit that had challenged Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policies, filed the opening brief in its bid to have the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit reverse the decision from the trial court in Boston.

U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs had given Harvard an across-the-board victory in the ruling made public Oct. 1, ending the first phase of a closely watched affirmative action case that could be headed for the Supreme Court. Students for Fair Admissions filed a notice of appeal on Oct. 4. Now, the plaintiff is arguing in a 64-page brief that the judge’s ruling was flawed and that the evidence shows Asian Americans suffer a penalty when Harvard reviews their applications for undergraduate admission.

“Harvard today engages in the same kind of discrimination and stereotyping that it used to justify quotas on Jewish applicants in the 1920s and 1930s,” the plaintiff argued in the brief. “The district court’s decision to accept Harvard’s self-serving testimony over this mountain of evidence was reversible error.”

The plaintiff also contends that Harvard engages in unlawful racial balancing of its classes, that it gives race too much weight in admissions and that it ignores workable alternatives that do not rely on race or ethnicity.

Harvard, which denies all of those allegations, pledged Tuesday to respond in court.

“We will vigorously defend the Court’s decision, which makes clear that Harvard does not discriminate on the basis of race in its admissions process, and that Harvard’s pursuit of a diverse student body is central to its educational mission and consistent with longstanding Supreme Court precedent,” the university said in a statement. “Today’s filing by Students for Fair Admissions further exposes their ultimate goal of removing the consideration of race in college and university admissions.”



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