Both sides clashed Monday at the opening of a trial at Boston's federal courthouse.
The US Justice Department, which launched a related probe of Harvard after Republican President Donald Trump took office a year ago, has backed SFFA's case, saying that Harvard has not seriously considered alternative, race-neutral approaches to admissions.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard the case and upheld the school's consideration of race in 2016.
The trial is expected to last three weeks, with the final decision to be made by U.S. District Court Judge Allison D. Burroughs.
The Supreme Court ruled that colleges could consider race as one of many factors in an admissions decision, but they couldn't set quotas for racial groups. "This white conservative activist is spearheading the lawsuit against Harvard - a fact that on its own should generate skepticism towards its merits, especially in an audience of color like ours", Pham adds.
Mortara said that while Asian American applicants received higher ratings than other racial groups in academics and extracurricular activities, their applications are dragged down by comparatively low "personal" ratings determined by vague and subjective criteria that benefit other applicants, particularly African American and Hispanic applicants. The U.S. Justice Department is also investigating Harvard over alleged discrimination against Asian-Americans, and Yale was recently announced as the subject of a similar investigation by the Justice and Education departments. One reason this is the case is that many see this case as one that could potentially impact affirmative action policies at other schools. Meanwhile, he argued, black and Latino students get a decisive advantage due to their race. And yet, he said, there is only one Asian student on campus for every two whites. "Yes, Not to use race in their admissions policies." said Blum, "Harvard can achieve diversity without discriminating".
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Last November, Harvard was accused of limiting the number of Asian Americans admitted into the university.
According to a review of internal Harvard documents, Asian-American students were given low "personality" evaluations, even if they hadn't met with admissions officers. In the 2016 case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, Kennedy wrote the argument rejecting arguments on behalf of Abigail Fisher, who also was recruited by Blum, and endorsing the racial affirmative action meant to diversity the campus of the flagship school based in Austin.
"Harvard is systemically saying that Asian candidates are not likeable and don't have good personalities. which is nothing but racist", says Lee Cheng, a lawyer and secretary of the Asian American Legal Foundation, which supports the lawsuit. This couldn't be further from the truth - a study of the 2011-2012 school year found that while 81 percent of Asian-American students had access to college-preparatory math and science courses, only 57 percent of black students enjoyed the same privileges.
The lawsuit, backed by the Trump administration, could eventually reach the Supreme Court.
The trial began almost four years after Harvard was sued by Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit based in Arlington, Virginia, that believes schools should not consider race when selecting students.
"We condemn the Department of Education's politically motivated attack on affirmative action and deliberate attempt to discourage colleges and universities from pursuing racial diversity at our nation's colleges and universities", Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a statement at the time. The recent arrival of Kennedy's replacement, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, strengthened the court's conservative majority and could signal a new approach if it revisits the issue.