Justice Department sides with Asian-Americans suing Harvard over admissions policy

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The Justice Department offered a public show of support in court Thursday to a group suing Harvard for what it says is discrimination against Asian-American applicants to the elite university.

A filing in the ongoing Massachusetts case is the Trump administration’s most significant entry into the debate over affirmative action and sets up a fight on the diversity policy that could have wide implications for higher education.

“The record evidence demonstrates that Harvard’s race-based admissions process significantly disadvantages Asian-American applicants compared to applicants of other racial groups — including both white applicants and applicants from other racial minority groups,” the Justice Department said in court papers Thursday.

“The evidence, moreover, shows that Harvard provides no meaningful criteria to cabin its use of race; uses a vague ‘personal rating’ that harms Asian-American applicants’ chances for admission and may be infected with racial bias; engages in unlawful racial balancing; and has never seriously considered race-neutral alternatives in its more than 45 years of using race to make admissions decisions.”

Harvard has rejected the assertion that it sets caps on the number of Asian-American students, and admissions officials say they consider all aspects of applicants’ backgrounds and their ability to contribute to the academic setting.

The case is set to go to trial in Boston in October.

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