Federal Judge Upholds Harvard’s Race-Based Admission Criteria

As previously discussed the controversy over the race-based criteria used Harvard University’s undergraduate admissions program and whether it discriminates against Asians. Not only do the criteria limit Asian-American students to 20 percent of the class but the plaintiffs alleged that such students are routinely given low scores on “personal ratings” to further reduce their admission numbers. U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs in Boston has now rejected those claims and upheld the admissions criteria, writing in the 130 page opinion that “The court will not dismantle a very fine admissions program that passes constitutional muster, solely because it could do better.” This case could prove a major new challenge to race-based admissions as it now works up to the court of appeals.

Students for Fair Admissions had brought the lawsuit.

The court acknowledged that the criteria resulted in Asian Americans being admitted at a lower rate than white students. White students have a 7-8 percent acceptance while Asian-American students have a 5-6 percent rate.

Burroughs acknowledged that Asian American applicants “would likely be admitted at a higher rate than white applicants if admissions decisions were made based solely on academic and extracurricular ratings.”

Parts of the opinion seem inconclusive and speculative. For example, on the personal ratings, Burroughs states

“The disparity in personal ratings suggests that at least some admissions officers might have subconsciously provided tips in the personal rating, particularly to African American and Hispanic applicants to create an alignment between the profile ratings and the race-conscious overall ratings that they were assigning. It also possible, although unsupported by any direct evidence before the court, that part of the statistical disparity resulted from admissions officers’ implicit biases that disadvantaged Asian American applicants in the personal rating relative to white applicants, but advantaged Asian American over whites in the academic rating.”

That seems like a judicial shrug on a critical allegation of discrimination.

The problem is that the Supreme Court has made an utter mess of this area with 5-4 decisions that left more questions than answers. In Grutter v. Bollinger, the Court divided 5-4 on the question in upholding the admissions criteria for Michigan Law School. However, even the author of the 2003 majority opinion, Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, stated that she did not believe the use of race would be acceptable for more than a couple decades more. The Court ruled that it “expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.” O’Connor’s statement was ridiculed by other justices (and others) since the constitutionality of affirmative action should not have an expiration date like one-percent milk.

The court does say that “The process would likely benefit from conducting implicit bias trainings for admissions officers, maintaining clear guidelines on the use of race in the admissions process, which were developed during this litigation, and monitoring and making admissions officers aware of any significant race-related statistical disparities in the rating process.”

That may not be enough. The case could prove the vehicle for forcing the Supreme Court to grapple again with this issue.

Here is the opinion: Harvard Admissions Opinion

132 thoughts on “Federal Judge Upholds Harvard’s Race-Based Admission Criteria”

  1. A related issue is Japanese citizens offspring reparations. In WWII the federal government rounded up U.S. citizens of Japanese ethnicity, whether they were born here or obtained citizenship after moving here from Japan, as well as non citizen Japanese people, and put them into concentration camps. There was no specific charge or reason and no trial. Now, generations later some descendants want reparations for grandma and grandpa’s lock up. Perhaps these folks should be given preference to California state colleges. California is were most of this concentration camp lock up happened.

    1. The reason was a fear of sabotage and spying. War with Japan.

      They got reparations already. They don’t need any more. End of that story.

      And at this point, there’s so many Chinese in America, who strongly dislike Japanese and harbor resentment about this episode in history, and so few Japanese by comparison, no politician would support anything more.

  2. Or just pull a Candace Owen and marry the child of a wealthy Baron/Lord from Britain. She wasn’t letting go that catch. 😂

    Go from a nobody to a somebody over night with the snap of a finger.

    I’m sure Michael Stahel Farmer did not approve of the poor American gal marrying into his family.

  3. Let’s talk about the real elephant in the room.

    It does not matter who goes to what school so long as you have connections post-grad. It does not matter even what grades you have in school so long as you have connections post-grad.

    1. Friend goes to Harvard. Poor family, Latino. Graduates with honors. Still ends up working next to and wirh all the other schmucks making less than 50,000.00 per year in LA.

    2. Friend goes to community college and then to CSUN, a state school. Does average. Ends up in a 6 figure job with Merrill Lynch post-BA degree, thanks to dad’s connections.

    My point, going to Harvard is not going to change anything for anyone, unless you’re from the right families, pledge the right fraternities, and have the family connections to other high wealth individuals.

    At least person in ex. 1 had most of their education paid for due to being for lower class family.

    But these upper class folks won’t be mixing with the lower class folks at these schools. Maybe on a superficial level, but not in a genuine way.

    1. Anonymous, I agree with your point about connections being the elephant in the room 100%. Wealth and connections can get the average student further in life’s material success than intelligence and hard work often does the poor and unconnected from what I’ve seen. Now if you’re Billy Madison that might not be the case but the average student should at least stay the course

      1. Here I have a math problem for everyone.



        We’re all screwed. The 99% of us, that is.

        The wealthy of this country would love nothing more than to eradicate the middle class out of existence.

        Have the servant class, which includes most lawyers and doctors, btw…and then have the served class, aka them.

        While this country has seen oppression of certain ethnicities through the centuries, don’t buy into the TV mind control division wars, e.g., racism (polaric), feminism, etc., that get ppl away from the true enemies…

        But here’s a car-toon, that explains it, sort of:


        “We are the members of do it, or die.”

        Very clever cartoon, I might add.

        1. This is the real issue. We must realize that the super wealthy who inherited their riches would love nothing more than a society where the poor remain at each others throats and the rich laugh all the way to the bank. The truth is we all are one people and since the dawn of time the wealthy have taken advantage of the poor whether through slavery (as the pharaoh could never have enough gold), the caste system which protects those who are able to create visible differences by inbreeding their lineal descendants, or segregation of races and tribes driving poor whites against poor blacks. You may think Crips and Bloods killing each other over colors is stupid, but it’s no more ignorant and tribal than our hatred of one another due to skin color. The sooner we recognize we are one the sooner we can band together and put some protection against an oligarchy.

          Part of that discussion should still be empathy. A recognition that we are brothers/cousins. Not “I don’t care for the plight of the black or the red because I’m not one of them”, but “I care, recognize past oppression and want to create a system where the less fortunate have an equal playing field, even if it means my offspring may not have quite as easy a path as they would have without it.” That doesn’t mean we have to keep a system of affirmative action based on race. It may mean using that autonomy and data to more accurately reflect income and hardships such that it can’t be manipulated as easily, allowing for a system where poverty, crime, and disadvantaged schools are given some weight instead. That may be a realistic goal by 2023 and better at achieving change than a system where the foreign son of a king who has private tutors all his life gets the same preferential treatment as the son of a woman who had rocks thrown at her for trying to enter an integrating school, who was told she couldn’t enter certain buildings and stores behind her own father or use the same bathrooms as cousin rancid @$$ squeeky, and had to raise him in a neighborhood where shots were fired on a daily basis and he lost friends etc as a result. One of those things is not like the other. Adjustment for circumstances may not please all because the result may appear the same to the untrained eye and determinations are still subjective. However if it could be executed properly it would be worthwhile in achieving a color blind society.

  4. In line with this story:

    “Math is racist

    The framework, created by various statewide districts, tackles four themes, including Power and Oppression and History of Resistance and Liberation.

    At its core, the belief seems to be that “western” math is viewed as the only “legitimate expression” of math identity and that it’s used to “disenfranchise people and communities of color” and, consequently, it “erases the historical contributions of people and communities of color.”

    None of this has anything to do with the math you should learn in K-12; these are topics left for a progressive college course you’d likely see at Evergreen State College.

    The framework asks, “Where does Power and Oppression show up in our math experiences?” It wonders, “Who gets to say if an answer is right?”

    Apparently, math is now subjective. Who are you to insist two plus two equals four? It goes on to ask “Who is Smart? Who is not Smart?” Answer: the person who says two plus two equals five is not yet smart and should be corrected, even if you think it oppresses them.

    The framework believes math is manipulated to allow inequality and oppression to persist. They ask, “Who is doing the oppressing?” I think the answer is supposed to be the white, cis-gendered, heterosexual Christian man.

    They ask, “How has math been used to resist and liberate people and communities of color from oppression?”

    Ironically, if you subscribe to this social justice world view of math, and teach anyone that there’s no such thing as correct answers, you will be doing immeasurable and, yes, oppressive, harm to students.


    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

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