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Harvard: Statement Defending Admissions Case Victory Finding No Discrimination

Today Harvard filed its appellate brief defending its victory, in which the court found, after a three week trial, that Harvard treats all applicants fairly, and lawfully considers race to achieve the educational benefits of diversity. The brief, filed in the First Circuit Court of Appeals, responds to Students for Fair Admissions, Inc.’s (SFFA) appeal of its loss in the District Court. Carefully considering both statistical evidence and extensive witness testimony, the District Court concluded that SFFA failed on each of its claims.

SFFA was founded by Edward Blum, a longtime opponent of policies intended to promote diversity in American life. SFFA sued Harvard in one of many attempts by Blum to prevent colleges and universities from using a whole-person admissions process that considers race as one aspect among many others, such as academic and extracurricular interests, socioeconomic background, and life experiences.

Harvard’s brief once again demonstrates that SFFA asserted unsupported factually and legally deficient claims, and, as the District Court ruled, that Harvard’s admissions process is a lawful process dedicated to strengthening diversity and expanding opportunity.

As Harvard argues in its brief:

“The Court should reject SFFA’s attack on Harvard’s longstanding and lawful admissions policy, under which students are considered as individuals and race is considered only as one factor among many.”

Worth noting in today’s filing:

SFFA is Seeking to Overturn 40 years of Supreme Court Precedent

“The Supreme Court has consistently upheld universities’ consideration of race to achieve the benefits that flow from student body diversity… The Court has explained that universities have a compelling interest in pursuing the educational benefits that flow from student body diversity, and held that they may consider race as part of an individualized admissions process.…”

“This case seeks to overturn these precedents by striking down the very policy the Supreme Court has endorsed as a model. The plaintiff, Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. (“SFFA”), was formed for the express purpose of ending race- conscious admissions.”

“…Finally, Harvard’s consideration of race in its admissions process fully complies with Supreme Court precedent. As the district court found, Harvard has articulated a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits of diversity, and its consideration of race is narrowly tailored to that end. SFFA attacks the district court’s analysis, arguing that Harvard fails to comply with Supreme Court precedents, but its real targets are those precedents themselves.”

SFFA’s Appeal Ignores the District Court’s Careful Factual Findings Supporting Harvard

“On appeal, SFFA largely attempts to relitigate the facts. But this Court reviews the district court’s factual findings for clear error, a bar SFFA makes no serious effort to meet. Among other factual findings, the court found that Harvard evaluates each applicant as an individual; that it considers an applicant’s race only for highly qualified applicants and as one of many factors; that it does not employ quotas; and—critically—that it does not harbor any discriminatory intent. Rather than engage with these factual findings, SFFA largely ignores or misstates them.”

“…the district court correctly found that Harvard has established a compelling interest in diversity, considers race as one factor among many, does not pursue racial balancing, and cannot presently achieve its goal of assembling an exceptional and diverse student body using race-neutral alternatives. SFFA provides no reason to discard these conclusions or the careful findings of fact on which they rely.”

“SFFA’s arguments on appeal amount to no more than an unsuccessful effort to relitigate the facts, and they rely almost entirely on statistical analyses prepared by its expert that the district court largely rejected.”

Harvard’s Admissions Process Seeks Diversity

“The court noted that, were Harvard to cease considering race, the racial diversity of the admitted class would suffer a precipitous decline and none of the proffered race-neutral alternatives could adequately or feasibly make up for that loss.”

ALL Evidence Supports District Court Decision

“SFFA’s primary attack on the district court’s findings is that the court erred in considering evidence beyond SFFA’s statistics… But the district court did not err in carefully weighing all of the admissible evidence—statistical, documentary, and testimonial. That is precisely the sort of “sensitive inquiry into … circumstantial and direct evidence” required under any standard in assessing allegations of “intentional discrimination.”

“Even putting aside the flaws of SFFA’s statistical evidence, SFFA’s discrimination argument rests on a fundamentally erroneous premise: that the district court was obliged to treat SFFA’s statistical analysis as irrefutable proof and therefore could not consider the statistical, documentary, and testimonial evidence establishing that Harvard does not intentionally discriminate against Asian-American applicants … But a trial court is, of course, supposed to consider all the evidence submitted over the course of the trial— including expert testimony, fact witness testimony, and documentary evidence— and make judgments about the credibility and weight of that evidence.”