Tuesday, September 19, 2023
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Students Cannot Take Part in Admissions Fight

BOSTON (CN) - A group of students who support Harvard University's consideration of race in undergraduate admissions decisions cannot intervene in lawsuit aimed at curbing that practice, the First Circuit ruled.

Despite claims that their intervention is necessary in order to prevent a settlement by Harvard, the students failed to show how they would be better suited to defeat the claims made by plaintiff Students for Fair Admissions.

"When a party cites a fear of settlement as a reason to intervene, it is not an abuse of discretion to find that reason insufficient, if the intervention will not reduce the likelihood of settlement, much less if intervention might increase the likelihood," wrote U.S. Circuit Judge William Kayatta for the three-judge panel.

Students for Fair Admission is a nonprofit law group comprised of parents and students who wish to challenge the use of race in admissions practices.

It brought separate suits against Harvard and the University of North Carolina last year, arguing that the schools discriminate against prospective white and Asian students by allowing race to be one of several different factors in admission acceptance.

In the midst of the case, which may hinge on a U.S. Supreme Court decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a second group of students sought to enter the fray in order to "vigorously" defeat the plaintiff organization's claims.

In June 2013, the High Court ruled the Fifth Circuit had failed to apply strict scrutiny to the university's race-conscious admissions policy and sent the case back for reconsideration. But the Justices did not directly consider the constitutionality of using race as a factor in college admissions.

On July 15, 2014, the Fifth Circuit revisited the case and ruled that "universities may use race as part of a holistic admissions program where it cannot otherwise achieve diversity."

In this case, the students who attempted to intervene said they had benefitted from Harvard's existing admissions policies and therefore have a clear stake in the outcome of the case.

They originally filed their lawsuit in Boston Federal Court, which dismissed the case because they failed to show that their interests remain unrepresented in the existing parties to the case. Instead, the students were granted the ability to file amicus briefs.

The students appealed, which was subsequently rejected.

The students claimed that their "zealous" advocacy in favor of Harvard's racial consideration in admissions was necessary in the event that Harvard was willing to settle with the plaintiffs and cut the race standard in order to preserve the preference for legacy admissions and donors.

The court, however, remained unconvinced, especially considering the students conceded that they would have no power to intervene in the event that Harvard considered settling.

"Nonetheless, the fact that these arguments are the best that they can offer in trying to say why Harvard will not adequately defend the lawsuit suggests quite strongly that Students' participation as a party is not needed to fill in a hole in Harvard's defense," Kayatta wrote.

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