Lawsuit against Harvard

Harvard argues it considers each applicant through an individualized, holistic review having the goal of creating a vibrant academic community that exposes students to a wide-range of differences:  background, ideas, experiences, talents and aspirations*.  Diversity brings vibrancy and Harvard’s diversity objective is not in question.

The Key question in the complaint against Harvard is – What role race and ethnicity plays in admissions decision? Harvard argues its use of race information is merely a plus factor in achieving diversity goal whereas appellant (refer to the law suit) argue that it indulges in racial and ethnicity based balancing. They say race and ethnicity plays a dominant role in Harvard’s decision making and that Harvard engages in racial balancing by enrolling the same percentages of students in each race category every year

Some numbers quoted in the Law Suit are given below. The only number that strikes to me is the difference in average SAT score of admitted students by race & ethnicity.  White SAT score is objective; it hides a lot of other things and favors Asians who are good test takers. Harvard has a point in saying subjective factors such as “growth and potential,” “interests and activities,” “character and personality,” and “contribution to the Harvard community” are important qualifications in admissions. But Harvard has also an obligation to be seen as ‘Fair’ while exercising subjectivity.  Harvard may win the law suit. But it has a challenge in correcting public perception.

The average SAT of respondents (Class of 2013) was 2237 (on a 2400-scale). Similar averages for subgroups were East Asians & Indians – 2299; African-Americans -2107 and Native Americans 2142.