Harvard Files Reply Brief in Admissions Case Appeal


Harvard submitted a brief in a federal appeals court Thursday reiterating its arguments that Harvard College does not discriminate against Asian American applicants, marking the latest development in years of litigation over affirmative action in the College’s admissions process.

The brief, which is Harvard’s first major filing in the appeals case, comes in response to a mid-February appellate brief submitted by anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions. SFFA has consistently argued that Harvard’s admissions process systematically disadvantages Asian American applicants.

SFFA appealed an October district court ruling in favor of Harvard and asked the First Circuit Court of Appeal to reverse that decision, made by district court judge Allison D. Burroughs.

Harvard argued in its brief that Burroughs’s ruling was correct and that SFFA failed to present any evidence of intentional discrimination. The University’s lawyers claimed that SFFA did not identify “even a single applicant it contends was wrongfully rejected.”


In contrast, Harvard’s lawyers claimed they provided extensive and convincing evidence, including internal documents and witness testimonials, to support their case.

“Every Admissions Office witness was asked if he or she had ever observed discrimination in the admissions process—and every single one said no,” the brief claims.

Harvard’s brief also repeated arguments that its admissions program complies with Supreme Court precedent, that it counts race only as a “plus factor” in admissions to increase student body diversity, and that it does not engage in “racial balancing” when selecting each incoming class.

Harvard’s brief also reiterated arguments that SFFA has no legal standing to sue the University, claiming that SFFA did not meet the legal standards for a “membership organization” that can file lawsuits on behalf of its members.

The brief concludes by asking the appeals court to uphold the district court ruling in Harvard’s favor.

“The district court’s judgment should be affirmed,” the document reads.

Other parties have just until Thursday to file amicus briefs in support of Harvard. Several organizations, including the United States Department of Justice, had previously submitted amicus briefs backing SFFA.

—Staff writer Benjamin L. Fu can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @BenFu_2.

—Staff writer Dohyun Kim can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @dohyunkim__.