Harvard Can Shield Jewish-Admissions Data

     BOSTON (CN) — Harvard University will not have to release information about its alleged history of discrimination against Jewish students during an ongoing affirmative-action case, a federal judge ruled.
     Students for Fair Admissions, an anti-affirmative action group, sued Harvard in 2014, claiming that its admissions system, which considers race as one of several factors, discriminated against Asian-Americans.
     SFFA claims that in order to maintain a diverse mix of students, Harvard has limited the number of Asian-American students it accepts, similar to how the university reportedly limited the number of Jewish students it accepted in the first half of the 20th century.
     Harvard instituted a quota policy in 1922 to limit Jewish applicants from making up more than 15 percent of the student body. The school’s then-president, A. Lawrence Lowell, reasoned that a higher concentration of Jewish students would encourage anti-Semitic sentiment, according to the American Jewish Historical Society. Those restrictions were eased years later by Lowell’s successor.
     SFFA compared how the school allegedly treats Asian-American students to its history of limiting Jewish students in its original complaint, to which Harvard answered by dismissing the relevance of policies from almost a century ago.
     “Those historical allegations are legally immaterial to the claims pleaded in the complaint, and none of defendant’s current employees possesses personal knowledge that would be sufficient to enable defendant to form a belief about the truth of those allegations,” the school’s answer stated.
     On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs ruled that Harvard does not have to produce any discovery materials on its alleged history of discrimination against Jewish applicants because SFFA did not prove that it would lead to admissible evidence in the case.
     “It is not clear how prior instances of discrimination against Jewish applicants in the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and 50s is relevant to the invidious discrimination claims in this case, which allege that Harvard is presently discriminating against Asian-American applicants,” Burroughs wrote in her four-page order. “Further, even assuming that such information might potentially be relevant to Plaintiff’s claims, the burden or expense of the proposed discovery would likely outweigh its likely benefit, which the court deems to be marginal at best.”
     Harvard, however, will have to provide information about past investigations, reports or responses on alleged discrimination against Asian-American students going back to 1988. The Ivy League university will also have to produce comprehensive admissions data from six full school-year cycles.
     In December 2015, the First Circuit blocked a group of individual students from joining the case on Harvard’s side. The students claimed that the school’s consideration of race benefitted them.
     The case had also been waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2016 affirmative-action ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas, in which the high court sided with the school’s admissions policy 4-3.

%d bloggers like this: