Judge rules in favor of Harvard University in affirmative action case

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By Janelle Griffith  with NBC News U.S. News
Image: Harvard University Campus
Harvard University students walk through campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Feb. 21, 2006.   -   Copyright  Joe Raedle Getty Images file

A federal judge on Monday ruled in favour of Harvard University in a high-profile court case centred on the college's consideration of race in its admissions decisions.

U.S. District Judge Allison D. Burroughs said in her decision that Harvard's admissions process is "not perfect" but passes constitutional muster. She said there is "no evidence of any racial animus whatsoever" and no evidence that any admission decision was "negatively affected by Asian American identity."

The group Students for Fair Admissions claimed in a 2014 lawsuit that Harvard intentionally discriminates against Asian American applicants. The group is led by Edward Blum, a conservative activist who has fought against affirmative action and other laws involving race and ethnicity, such as the Voting Rights Act.

The case, which experts have said could make it all the way to the Supreme Court, has added fuel to a national debate about whether and how race should influence admissions.

The lawsuit argued that Harvard's admissions office holds Asian Americans to a higher standard and uses a subjective "personal rating" to limit their admission to the Ivy League school.

In April, Harvard said 25.4% of its admitted class of 1,950 students were Asian American, up from 22.7% the year before. The new figure was the highest proportion of Asian American students that the university has admitted in the last decade.

Harvard has said race is one of many factors used to consider applicants and it can only help, not hurt, an applicant's chances.