Accusations that the Harvard University admissions process is rigged against Asian Americans were lobbed and parried on October 15 as the trial opened in a case that could become another landmark in the long debate over affirmative action.
Students for Fair Admissions, a group representing Asian American applicants, alleged here in federal court that Harvard violated their civil rights by penalizing them for their race at key stages of deliberations.
Attorney Adam K. Mortara, representing the plaintiff, homed in repeatedly on statistical analyses that he said show Harvard gives Asian Americans significantly lower ratings for subjective personal qualities, including leadership and compassion, than applicants from other racial groups. That rating, he said, is often crucial to the outcome.
“Harvard has engaged in, and continues to engage in, intentional discrimination against Asian Americans,” Mortara said. He also contended that Harvard knew of the problem since “red warning flags” were raised internally in 2013 but the university did nothing about it.
Separately, the Justice Department has opened civil rights investigations into complaints that Harvard and Yale discriminate against Asian Americans. Both universities deny those allegations.