Harvard and the Fate of Affirmative Action

February 15, 2019
Ever since the United States Supreme Court’s 1978 Regents of the University of California v Bakke decision, the appropriate role of race and ethnicity in admissions to highly selective American universities has been the focus of a succession of legal challenges. The list is long. Those that have reached the Supreme Court include Hopwood v Texas (1996), Grutter v Bollinger (2003) and most recently Fisher v University of Texas (2016). 

Currently, Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v Harvard has generated national headlines in the US, with the charge of systematic discrimination against Asian-American applicants being made. It’s a case that many believe will wind its way to the US Supreme Court. Adding to the fray, a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) professor recently sued the University of California’s Board of Regents for a similar charge of discrimination against Asian-Americans applying to the University of California’s (UC) most selective campuses, requesting access to data to run his own analysis. 

The Harvard University case has a similar contour, with the lawsuit being filed by a conservative political action group (SFFA) and revolving around a similar and successful request for admissions data. A large portion of the trial, now recently completed and awaiting a decision, focused on a debate over the meaning of the data and an analysis by the plaintiffs.
The crux of such charges is that, on average, one racial or ethnic group is more ‘qualified’ than other groups, often underrepresented minorities, but has lower admissions rates. For anti-affirmative action advocates, standardised test scores like the SAT are seen as the gold standard of academic ability since they are a universal measure, unlike grades that are local assessments of abilities and subject to grade inflation. . . .
University World News