Harvard Students Say Admissions Case Has Drawn Attention To Inclusivity On Campus

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In this 2018 photo, the John Harvard statue looks over Harvard Yard at Harvard University. (Charles Krupa/AP)
In this 2018 photo, the John Harvard statue looks over Harvard Yard at Harvard University. (Charles Krupa/AP)

A federal judge in Boston has ruled that Harvard University does not discriminate against Asian Americans in its admissions policies, but some say they don't think the case is over.

A group called Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) filed an initial complaint against Harvard in 2014. The group's chief backer, conservative legal strategist Edward Blum, has been trying to get the Supreme Court to declare that colleges and universities may not engage in affirmative action to get more students from under-represented groups on campuses.

In this case, SFFA argued that in order to admit more African Americans and Latinos, Harvard was discriminating against Asian Americans.

Efe Gboneme, a Harvard student, says she's glad that the case raised the question of whether Asian Americans are discriminated against.

"So I think it's definitely had, I guess, good repercussions in terms of, what are schools starting to think and making sure they're not discriminating against people, so even just for that, I'm very glad that at least the case was discussed," Gboneme said.

During the trial, Students for Fair Admissions argued that an Asian American applicant with a 25% chance of being admitted to Harvard would see her chances jump to 75% is she were Latina and 94% if she were African American.

A study based on evidence presented during the lawsuit revealed that 43% of white students admitted to Harvard are athletes or related to donors, alumni, faculty or staff. And that's the context sophomore Isani Singh says she thinks about when talking about whether Asian Americans or other nonwhite groups are discriminated against.

"The white students being of different experiences than people of color, it's just an interesting environment here on campus," Singh said. "I didn't think it would affect my time here as much, but I think that it has been a topic of conversation a lot here in the undergraduate population for sure."

There seems to be a general sentiment on campus that ultimately, the Supreme Court will decide this case.

"I don't think this is the end of the story," freshman Alex Kim said. "The Harvard cases will help inform admissions policies across the nation, so it's definitely exciting to be at the center of that and look forward to seeing the Supreme Court ruling."

Already the conservative legal strategist behind the lawsuit, Blum, has said he would appeal to the Supreme Court if necessary. The last time he had a case against affirmative action, against the University of Texas, he lost.

That was three years ago. Since then, President Trump has appointed two new Supreme Court justices.

This segment aired on October 2, 2019.


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Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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