Supreme Court asked to weigh in on Harvard racial discrimination case
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Supreme Court asked to weigh in on Harvard racial discrimination case

Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) petitioned the US Supreme Court Thursday to take up a case alleging racial discrimination in admissions.

The lawsuit alleges that Harvard University violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act through their “race-conscious” undergraduate admissions process. SFFA claims that the Harvard University Office of Admissions penalizes Asian-American applicants because “[Asian-American applicants] lack leadership and confidence and are less likable and kind.” SFFA argues that this discriminatory language alone should be enough for the Supreme Court to grant certiorari. The petition also cites Harvard’s history of unsavory admissions practices against ethnic minorities and argues that Harvard University has continually failed to consider “race-neutral alternatives” to an extent that violates Title VI.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act was enacted in 1964 and prohibits discrimination against any person on the basis of race, skin color, and national origin, and it applies to any programs that receive federal aid. Past decisions in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts in 2017 and the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in 2020 both rejected the claims brought against Harvard on the basis that SFFA did not adequately show that Harvard had “treated members of one race differently and less favorably than members of another race and that the [Harvard] did so with a racially discriminatory purpose.”

In response to these decisions, SFFA states two reasons why the lower courts’ decisions should be overturned. First, SFFA argues that the case Grutter v. Bollinger, which was decided in 2003, “abandoned the principle of racial neutrality that Brown and Title VI vindicated,” and petitions the Court to overturn it. Second, SFFA argues that the lower courts erred in their decisions and that at Harvard race is much more than a “factor of a factor of a factor,” but is instead used to discriminate against applicants of certain ethnicities.

SFFA also filed a complaint on Thursday in the US District Court for the District of Connecticut against Yale University citing similar discriminatory practices of admission against students of white and Asian descent. This complaint follows a rejected petition to intervene in the case, United States v. Yale University, which was withdrawn earlier this month.