As the trial of a lawsuit in which Harvard is being accused of discriminating against Asian-American applicants continued for the second day, the dean of admissions at Harvard denied that the university consistently uses stereotypical comments to describe Asian-American applicants.
The lawsuit, which was filed by the group Students for Fair Admissions, says the university systematically rates Asian Americans lower on intangible attributes like kindness, courage and leadership. Led by conservative legal strategist Edward Blum, the group's lawyers are using a 2013 internal investigation into Harvard's admissions records that found in some cases Asian-American applicants were described with terms such as "quiet, shy or science or math oriented" and lumped together with other applicants of the same ethnicity.
On the stand for a second day, Harvard’s longtime Dean of Admissions William Fitzsimmons denied that the comments are consistent with Harvard's mission.
"We abhor stereotypical comments," Fitzsimmons said. "This is not a part of our process. This is not who I am.”
Fitzsimmons also said the 2013 report is an "important benchmark" for his admissions staff at Harvard.
"The entire staff certainly studied this report very, very carefully to make certain it did not engage in racial stereotyping," he said.
Earlier in the day, Fitzsimmons also defended Harvard's use of race in the admissions process, saying that giving students a diverse campus in a country that is undergoing racial stress and division would "make people much better citizens and citizen leaders.”
He also said race was never a determining factor, but that it was a help for some applicants when "all other factors were substantially equal."
His testimony will continue on Wednesday.
Speaking after the court let out for the day, Bill Lee, a lawyer for Harvard, said the defense will present "much more information" tomorrow about Harvard's admissions process.
"We'll fill in an awful lot of the details," he said.
Additional reporting by Kirk Carapezza.