Harvard admissions dean testifies as affirmative action trial begins
Boston: Harvard Universitys dean of admissions testified in federal court that in the interest of attracting a diverse student body, the school lowers its recruiting standards a bit for many students from rural regions, but not if they were Asian-American.
The dean, William Fitzsimmons, was the first witness to take the stand in a courttoom here on Monday in a trial over whether Harvard discriminates against Asian-American applicants in violation of civil rights law, reports The New York Times.
The plaintiffs in the case say Harvard effectively imposes a quota on Asian-American students, a claim the school denies.
After opening arguments, the trial began delving into the arcane mechanics of Harvard’s admissions process, which the university say is meant to ensure that students from a wide range of backgrounds are admitted.
One issue that surfaced quickly was how Harvard goes about recruiting from what it calls “sparse country” – predominantly rural states that tend to yield few applications.
“People invited to apply from sparse country are ‘unknown,’ ‘other’ and ‘white’, correct?” John Hughes, a lawyer for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, asked Fitzsimmons.
“Yes,” said the dean, who has been in charge of Harvard admissions since 1986.
“Asians are not included in that list?” Hughes asked, to which the dean replied: “Not in that particular list.”
Harvard has fiercely fought the disclosure of thousands of admissions documents, saying they were the equivalent of trade secrets.
The plaintiffs have said that the university holds Asian-American applicants to a higher standard than people of other races, and that it resorts to racial balancing to shape its incoming classes.
The university readily acknowledges seeking a diverse incoming class each year, but denies using racial quotas or discrimination to achieve it.
The lawsuit was brought by an organisation called Students for Fair Admissions, which recruited Asian-American students who were rejected by Harvard.