The independent news organization of Duke University

Judge rules for Harvard in admissions case involving Duke professor’s research

A federal court decided Tuesday that Harvard University does not discriminate against Asian American students in its admissions process. 

The group that brought forward the lawsuit, Students for Fair Admissions, claimed that Harvard admitted a disproportionately low number of Asian American students and held them to a higher standard than applicants of other races. However, Federal District Court Judge Allison Burroughs found that although Harvard’s admissions process is imperfect, it is not racist.

“The Court finds no persuasive evidence of any racial animus or conscious prejudice against Asian Americans,” Burroughs wrote in her decision. 

However, she wrote that the admissions process could benefit from implicit bias training

The case had been watched closely by schools that consider race as a factor in admissions. Duke signed an amicus brief in support of Harvard and affirmative action in July 2018. 

The plaintiff relied heavily on testimony from Duke Professor of Economics Peter Arcidiacono to support their case, hiring him to consult compiled data about applicants to Harvard. Arcidiacono was given information about each applicant, including race, gender and a numerical scale determined by Harvard that ranked applicants on their academic, extracurricular, personal and athletic promise.

Arcidiacono concluded that Harvard admissions staff ranked Asian American students significantly lower in personality than other students. This discrepancy was not found to exist between Asian American and white applicants when a similar ranking system was used by teachers and alumni interviewers.

Burroughs said that statistical differences between such groups were not caused by a racial animus or prejudice, according to Law360.