Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. Harvard University

 

In the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston ruled on Nov. 12, 2020, that Harvard does not discriminate against Asian-American applicants, reaffirming the importance of race-conscious admissions in helping construct diverse campuses.

The panel of judges upheld the decision by the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, setting up a possible case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Read ACE President Ted Mitchell's statement on the decision here.

ACE and 40 other associations submitted an amicus brief to the appeals court in support of Harvard on May 21, 2020.

Read ACE's Amicus brief

In the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Supported by 130-pages of factual findings and legal conclusions, Judge Allison Burroughs ruled for Harvard​ on Sept. 30, 2019. ACE and 36 other associations filed an amicus brief in support of Harvard prior to the hearing.

Analysis on the District Court Decision

The Harvard Admissions Case: Reactions to the Judge's Ruling​
ACE Vice President and General Counsel Peter G. McDonough talks with four experts on diversity in admissions policy about the decision.  ​

Takeaways from the District Court Decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard: A Preliminary Analysis
College Board Access & Diversity Collaborative

ACE Statements and Commentary

Statement by ACE President Ted Mitchell on Harvard University Admissions Case Ruling
Oct. 1, 2019

No Retreat
Inside Higher Ed | June 10, 2019

Statement by ACE President Ted Mitchell on Trump Administration Decision to Rescind Guidelines on Race in College Admissions
July 3, 2018

The Supreme Court Frees Colleges to Sensibly Pursue Diversity
The Chronicle of Higher Education | June 24, 2016

ACE Board of Directors Resolution on Diversity
Resolution approved by the ACE Board of Directors on June 19, 2012, to preserve, support, and enhance diversity on college and university campuses.

Background

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. Harvard is a federal lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts ​challenging Harvard University's “holistic” admissions process and its consideration of race and ethnicity when reviewing applications for undergraduate admission.

Following lengthy discovery and pre-trial motions, a non-jury trial commenced before Judge Allison Burroughs in October 2018. Judge Burroughs ruled in favor of Harvard​ on Sept. 30, 2019. The trial court’s decision is currently on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

Although the case only concerns Harvard, it has been closely watched, since Harvard’s policies and practices may have features similar to those of other institutions with competitive admissions. Furthermore, United States Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, writing the principal opinion in the 1978 landmark case Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, cited the “Harvard College program” as an exemplar of permissible race-conscious admissions. 

“This kind of program treats each applicant as an individual in the admissions process,” Powell wrote. “The applicant who loses out on the last available seat to another candidate receiving a ‘plus’ on the basis of ethnic background will not have been foreclosed from all consideration for that seat simply because he was not the right color or had the wrong surname.”

Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. (SFFA) alleged in its complaint, filed in 2014, that Harvard discriminates against Asian-American students in its admissions processes. Harvard denies the claim, and went to trial to defend its admissions practices, which Harvard believes to be consistent with federal law informed by a series of Supreme Court decisions dating back to Bakke.  

Edward Blum, SFFA’s president, is the architect and driving force behind this lawsuit and other cases challenging race-conscious admissions practices at colleges and universities, including the unsuccessful attempt in Fisher v. University of Texas to eliminate the use of race as one of many factors in admissions.

Diversity in Admissions Amicus Briefs
Amicus Brief to U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit: Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. Harvard
Amicus Brief to U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit: Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. Harvard
Along with 40 other higher education associations, ACE submitted this amicus brief in support of Harvard in the challenge to the university's “holistic” admissions process.
Amicus Brief: Students for Fair Admissions, Inc., v. Harvard
Amicus Brief: Students for Fair Admissions, Inc., v. Harvard
ACE and 36 other higher education organizations submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. District Court in Boston in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc., v. Harvard.
Amicus Brief to the U.S. Supreme Court: Fisher v. University of Texas (II)
Amicus Brief to the U.S. Supreme Court: Fisher v. University of Texas (II)
ACE and 37 other higher education associations filed this brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, as the court prepares to take a second look at UT’s diversity in admissions policy.
Amicus Brief to the U.S. Supreme Court: Fisher v. University of Texas
Amicus Brief to the U.S. Supreme Court: Fisher v. University of Texas
Amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Fisher v. University of Texas, which deals with the university's admissions policy.
Amicus Brief to the U.S. Supreme Court: University of Michigan Admissions Cases
Amicus Brief to the U.S. Supreme Court: University of Michigan Admissions Cases
Amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of the University of Michigan in the 2003 cases Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger.
ACE Resources
Harvard Admissions Case: Unpacking the Components
Harvard Admissions Case: Unpacking the Components
ACE's President Ted Mitchell, General Counsel Peter McDonough, and VP of Research Lorelle Espinosa discuss the Harvard admissions case and its broader implications for higher education. Only on ACE Engage—Create an account today!
The Harvard Admissions Case: Reactions to the Judge's Ruling
The Harvard Admissions Case: Reactions to the Judge's Ruling
ACE Vice President and General Counsel Peter G. McDonough talks with four experts on diversity in admissions policy about the recent district court decision in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. Harvard.
Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin
Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin
Resources on the legal challenges to race-conscious admissions, ACE’s amicus briefs in support of UT and more.
Enrollment Management
Enrollment Management
This group is designed for leaders who define and lead strategic student outreach, enrollment, retention, and completion. Only on ACE Engage—Create your account!
ACE Unveils New Resource on the Status of Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education
ACE Unveils New Resource on the Status of Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education
A seminal ACE report shows that while the number of students of color on U.S. campuses continues to rise, gaps in access, attainment, and debt levels remain.
ACE Survey Finds Increased Focus Among College Presidents on Campus Racial Climate
ACE Survey Finds Increased Focus Among College Presidents on Campus Racial Climate
Campus racial climate has become a larger priority for college and university presidents and their institutions, finds a new national online survey by ACE's Center for Policy Research and Strategy (CPRS).
Race, Class, and College Access: Achieving Diversity in a Shifting Legal Landscape
Race, Class, and College Access: Achieving Diversity in a Shifting Legal Landscape
This report examines how legal challenges to race-conscious admissions are influencing contemporary admissions practices at selective colleges and universities around the country.