Information and Resources Related to Recent Decision on Students for Fair Admissions vs Harvard

On September 30, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts ruled for Harvard in the case: Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard.

On September 30, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts ruled for Harvard in the case: Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard. The district court addressed and rejected four claims of discrimination by Students for Fair Admissions who challenged Harvard’s admissions policies and practices, including that Harvard:

  • Pursued racial balancing
  • Considered the race of applicants in a mechanical way
  • Failed to pursue viable race-neutral alternatives in lieu of its consideration of race
  • Engaged in intentional discrimination against Asian Americans

The Access and Diversity Collaborative (ADC) has prepared a preliminary analysis of the case. In this early look, they identified five major takeaways:

  • The court’s decision follows four decades of precedent that affirms the educational benefits of student diversity in higher education.
  • The decision illustrates the significance of institution-specific efforts and investments associated with policy design, supporting evidence and operational approaches, and the competing world views and data analyses of experts.
  • This decision was shaped significantly by witnesses, including the failure of Students for Fair Admissions to identify applicants claiming harm and the credibility of Harvard’s witnesses.
  • The resolution of this case depended in substantial part on the court’s conclusion about the design and authenticity of Harvard’s holistic review policy. While recognizing that the admissions process was not perfect, the court called out several features of the policy that satisfied strict scrutiny standards under federal law.
  • Importantly, the court “emphatically repeat[ed] what the Supreme Court said in Fisher II,” i.e., that Harvard must “continue to use [its valuable] data to scrutinize the fairness of its admissions program” and to make “refinement[s]” in light of changing conditions.

The court addressed the question of merit, concluding that the challenged policy did not result in the admission of un- or under-qualified students.

Read the ADC’s full early analysis.

Join us for a live webinar, “Understanding the Role of Race-Neutral Strategies in Advancing Higher Education Diversity Goals,” on October 10 at 1 p.m. ET. We invite all campus stakeholders to sign up. Please invite other campus colleagues as well. Register for the webinar.

The ADC will host a public webinar, “Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard: Understanding What the Courts Said and What It Means for Public Education,” on October 23, at 2 p.m. ET. The webinar will address the decision as well as the recent decision in SFFA v. UNC, which denied summary judgment to all parties. Register for the webinar.

Join us at College Board Forum 2019 for the following ADC sessions:

  1. Major Federal Developments Affecting Higher Education Diversity and Admission, November 6, 1:15–2:15 p.m.
  2. Race-Neutral Strategies Under Federal Nondiscrimination Law: An Evolving Lens, November 8, 8–9:15 a.m.