A federal judge determined that Harvard University is not guilty of discriminating against Asian Americans in its admissions process.
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U.S. District Judge Allison D. Burroughs ruled Tuesday that Harvard's admissions process is "not perfect" but passes constitutional muster. She said there is "no evidence of any racial animus whatsoever" and no evidence that any admission decision was "negatively affected by Asian American identity."
"Race conscious admissions will always penalize to some extent the groups that are not being advantaged by the process," Burroughs wrote, "but this is justified by the compelling interest in diversity and all the benefits that flow from a diverse college population."
A group called Students for Fair Admissions had sued Harvard, saying that the Ivy League university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was intentionally and unlawfully trying to suppress the number of Asian Americans at the school, and instead giving entry to students from different minority groups with lesser grades. The case was argued for three weeks last year.
"Today’s decision unequivocally affirms that Harvard does not discriminate on the basis of race in its admissions process, and that Harvard’s pursuit of the diverse student body central to its educational mission is lawful," Harvard attorney William F. Lee, a partner at the white-shoe law firm WilmerHale, told FOX Business. "It represents a significant victory not merely for Harvard, but also for all schools and students, for diversity, and for the rule of law. As the court has recognized, now is not the time to turn back the clock on diversity and opportunity."
The group that sued Harvard said it is "disappointed" in the ruling.
"We believe that the documents, emails, data analysis and depositions SFFA presented at trial compellingly revealed Harvard’s systematic discrimination against Asian-American applicants,” said Edward Blum of Students for Fair Admissions. The group plans to appeal the decision.
"Harvard College’s admissions process aims to evaluate each individual as a whole person," the university's president Lawrence S. Bacow said in a statement. "The consideration of race, alongside many other factors, helps us achieve our goal of creating a diverse student body that enriches the education of every student. Everyone admitted to Harvard College has something unique to offer our community, and today we reaffirm the importance of diversity — and everything it represents to the world."
Though Harvard specifically and colleges in America generally will be able to continue their admission processes as currently constituted as a result of this ruling, there are legal analysts who predict that the plaintiffs and defendants in this case are ultimately headed for a showdown in the Supreme Court, as the case winds it way through the legal system on appeal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.