Trump Admin sides with Asian American students in Harvard Admissions suit

The Trump administration April 6 backed an Asian American student group that claims Harvard University has discriminated against the Asian American community in the admissions process.

A judge April 6 has decided to make records of Harvard’s admissions public, according to a CNN report. The move by the Justice Department forecasts the emerging fault lines in what could serve as the first major affirmative action case of the Trump administration, the report said.

The fight surrounding the secrecy of Harvard’s competitive admissions process stems from a 2014 lawsuit brought by Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit organization that argues race-conscious admissions policies are unconstitutional, the report said.

The group includes over a dozen students who claim they were rejected from Harvard because it engages in “racial balancing” by capping the number of Asian Americans it admits each year, it said.

As part of pre-trial discovery in the case, the group obtained a mountain of high school applicant files and detailed information on the inner workings of Harvard’s admissions process, much of which it wants to use as evidence as the lawsuit moves ahead, CNN reported.

The institution says the materials are “highly sensitive” and “highly proprietary,” and has asked the judge to shield the records from public view if used in court filings, the report added.

The Justice Department has not formally joined the students’ current lawsuit in federal court, but has a keen interest in making the admissions data a matter of public record now: the department is embroiled in a parallel case over Harvard’s policies as it investigates a similar 2015 complaint filed by a coalition of Asian American associations, CNN noted.

Justice Department lawyers wrote April 6 that the lawsuit “overlaps with the legal and factual bases undergirding the United States’ investigation and could directly bear on that investigation.”

The department could eventually bring its own lawsuit against Harvard based on its findings, or decide to simply join the students’ ongoing case as a “friend of the court,” the report said.

The university in an April 6 statement said it would continue to protect prospective student’s personal information.

A court hearing over how the confidentiality of the documents will be treated was held April 10 at the U.S. District Court in Boston, at which Judge Allison D. Burroughs ruled that, within the next two months, lawyers for Harvard University and advocacy group Students for Fair Admissions must file two near-identical sets of previously confidential Harvard admissions documents—one unredacted set to be filed under seal and one redacted version of the set to be filed publicly, reported The Harvard Crimson. Essentially, a small, redacted portion of more than 90,000 pages of Harvard admissions documents—including applicants’ files and internal correspondence between admissions officers—will become public information in coming months.

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