The Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) filed a lawsuit against Harvard in 2014 under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars intentional discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, or national origin at colleges and universities that receive federal funds. SFFA specifically alleged that Harvard’s undergraduate admissions process discriminates against Asian Americans.
Michael Wang is one of the Asian American students who is involved in the lawsuit. When Wang graduated, he had a 4.67 GPA, placed in the 99th percentile on the SAT, and even performed at former president Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009. Wang was rejected from Harvard while some of his less impressive classmates were admitted. Wang believed he was rejected because he was Asian. Wang eventually got in touch with Edward Blum, who heads both the SFFA and the Project on Fair Representation, a legal defense foundation that supports “litigation that challenges racial and ethnic classifications.”
Blum, along with Wang and many other Asian American students, argue that affirmative action is actually being used to harm instead of help this particular minority group. SFFA is also suing the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on similar grounds. Specifically, SFFA stated that Harvard unfairly caps “the number of Asian American students it admits in order to boost the enrollment of other racial groups.” Harvard countered that the SFFA failed to demonstrate any bias and that the lawsuit’s goal “is to eliminate all consideration of race in admissions.”
This suit has gained national attention, especially from the Justice Department. On August 30, 2018, the Justice Department filed a statement of interest in this case, claiming that Harvard has failed to show that it does not unlawfully discriminate against Asian Americans.
The trial concluded on November 2, 2018, after weeks of arguments in front of Obama appointee U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs. Judge Burroughs concluded the trial by stating, “I don’t know if I’ll have another case in my career where the presentation has been so professional, thoughtful and exceptional.” No time line is set for when she will issue her ruling. However, there has been speculation that the case will be challenged all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.