A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld a ruling clearing Harvard University of discrimination against Asian American applicants. The decision moves the case a step closer to the U.S. Supreme Court, ABC News reports.
“The district court did not clearly err in finding that Harvard did not intentionally discriminate against Asian Americans,” the appellate panel said.
The Students for Fair Admissions, 2014 lawsuit alleges that Harvard’s admissions officers use a subjective “personal rating” to discriminate against Asian Americans who apply to the school. Using six years of admissions data, the group found that Asian American applicants had the best academic records but received lower personal ratings than Black and Hispanic students. The group alleges Asian Americans are admitted at a lower rate than students of other racial groups.
Harvard defended its admissions record, saying it considered race only in the way allowed by the Supreme Court, and the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.
“The district court properly concluded that Harvard does not utilize quotas and does not engage in racial balancing,” the decision said.
“The issue before us is whether Harvard’s limited use of race in its admissions process in order to achieve diversity in the period in question is consistent with the requirements of Supreme Court precedent. There was no error.”
Students for Fair Admissions said the lawsuit is now on track to go to the U.S. Supreme Court, whose conservative members may reconsider more than four decades of affirmative action.
“We will ask the justices to end these unfair and unconstitutional race-based admissions policies at Harvard and all colleges and universities,” Edward Blum, the group’s president, said in a statement provided to The Associated Press.
“Today’s decision once again finds that Harvard’s admissions policies are consistent with Supreme Court precedent, and lawfully and appropriately pursue Harvard’s efforts to create a diverse campus that promotes learning and encourages mutual respect and understanding in our community. As we have said time and time again, now is not the time to turn back the clock on diversity and opportunity,” a Harvard spokeswoman said in a statement to ABC News.