Harvard must release admissions data after being accused of holding Asian American applicants to higher standard

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Harvard University will have to release six years’ worth of admission data due to a lawsuit filed by a group with ties to anti-affirmative action organizations that alleges the university’s admission system hurts Asian American applicants.

The Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) filed a lawsuit against Harvard in 2014, alleging that the university has a quota system that has negatively affected Asian Americans’ admission to the school, according to the Harvard Crimson. The case has been stagnant while the Supreme Court mulled Fisher vs. The University of Texas at Austin. In July, the Supreme Court upheld UT-Austin’s race-based admission program, but wrote in its opinion that “considerable deference is owed to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission.”


At Harvard, U.S. District Judge Allison D. Burroughs ruled Harvard must provide “data from the admissions database” from 2009-2014, as well as limited information from 2007-2009, according to the Crimson. The school is also ordered to release all previous investigations into alleged discrimination.

Harvard had moved to block revealing the data, saying releasing the admissions data could violate applicants’ privacy and the school has released aggregate data.


Burroughs threw out the plaintiff’s argument that admissions policies in the 1920-50s that allegedly discriminated against Jewish applicants is a precedent. Burroughs said those admissions policies are too far removed from present-day to be a factor.

But this lawsuit has some Asian Americans uneasy, even those who think Harvard's system needs some reform.  Take a look at the source of the lawsuit: It was initiated by Edward Blum, an anti-affirmative action warrior who encouraged Fisher in her lawsuit against UT-Austin and who initiated the case that narrowed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Blum told Reuters in 2015 that he is working toward a goal of race-blind admissions, thus ending affirmative-action.