The U.S. Department of Justice says Harvard University puts Asian-American applicants at a disadvantage through the school’s use of a subjective “personal rating” in the admissions process, according to a new court filing in a federal lawsuit challenging the legality of affirmative action.
The statement of interest filed Thursday by the Justice Department supported the claims made by the plaintiffs, who have sued Harvard for allegedly limiting the number of Asian-American students it admits and holding them to a higher standard than students of other races.
The lawsuit against Harvard was filed in Boston federal court in 2014 by Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit whose members include Asian-American students who were denied admission to Harvard. It has become a closely watched battle over how one of the nation’s most selective colleges chooses who gets admitted, and whether the process illegally discriminates on the basis of race.
In criticizing the personal rating, the Justice Department was referring to one component of Harvard’s undergraduate admissions process that evaluates applicants based, in part, on a subjective assessment of character traits.
The plaintiffs have said in earlier court filings that their analysis found Asian-American applicants have the highest academic and extracurricular ratings of any other racial group, but the lowest score on the personal rating, which includes an evaluation of the applicant’s personality. The rating is also based on teacher recommendations, personal essays and admissions interviews, according to Harvard.