A federal appeals court upheld a lower court ruling Thursday that cleared Harvard University of discrimination against Asian American applicants.
The case is not over, nor it should be, in our opinion. The issued could very well make it to the United States Supreme Court.
Frankly, we are baffled by the issue. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 clearly states: "No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." In fewer words, it says schools receiving federal funds can't discriminate based on race.
But that's exactly what Harvard and many other schools do. In fact, accreditation agencies pressure universities to do so.
In the Harvard case, Asian Americans applicants were being denied admission because Harvard wanted to admit more students of other races in the name of diversity. The Asian American students were fully qualified, but didn't gain admission because of their race. An analysis found that Harvard accepted Asian Americans at lower rates than any other racial group, while giving preference to Black and Hispanic students with lower grades.
Basing admissions on race seems wrong to us, but others disagree. Multiple court decisions over decades since the Civil Rights Act was signed say that colleges can consider race as a limited factor in order to promote campus diversity. But the practice faces mounting challenges. In August, the Department of Justice notified Yale University of its findings that Yale illegally discriminates against Asian American and white applicants in its undergraduate admissions process in violation of Title VI.
We expect the issue to continue to be debated for some time. We look forward to a day when college applicants are neither admitted or denied admission based on the color of their skin.
-- Jon M. Hunter