Lawyers for Students for Fair Admissions focused on race-neutral admissions practices and the role of family income Monday as the trial probing accusations that Harvard discriminates against Asian-American applicants began its second week.
Students for Fair Admissions, or SFFA, alleges Harvard holds Asian-American applicants to higher standards than other groups and unfairly ranks them low on intangibles like leadership skills and personality.
Taking the stand first was Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, who explained models that he said Harvard could use to practice race-neutral admissions.
On the stand, Kahlenberg went through four different models that didn't include race as a factor in admissions and focused instead on socioeconomic status.
Each of the models would lead to an increase in Asian-Americans admitted to Harvard, he testified, and the gap between high-income and low-income students also narrowed.
"The socioeconomic diversity at Harvard ... is deeply lacking," Kahlenberg said.
When it was their turn for questioning, Harvard's lawyers were more emphatic than usual when they asked Kahlenberg asked if he was being paid by SFFA. He acknowledged he was.
They also seemed to be hinting that Kahlenberg may not have an unbiased opinion in the case, pointing to a 2014 Fox News article about the case that quoted Kahlenberg as saying, "The plaintiffs present considerable evidence suggesting that Harvard discriminates against Asian-American applicants.”
Harvard's lawyers also pointed out during their questioning of Kahlenberg that 50 percent of Harvard students receive financial aid and 20 percent don't have to make a financial contribution to their college education.
The lawyers also brought up instances in the past when Kahlenberg spoke positively of Harvard's admissions process.
Also taking the stand was Rakesh Khurana, dean of Harvard College, the undergraduate school.
Khurana served on two groups that looked into Harvard's admissions practices: the College Working Group on Diversity and Inclusion and the Committee to Study Race-Neutral Alternatives.
SFFA's lawyers focused most of their questions on the socioeconomic makeup of the student body at Harvard, asking Khurana to confirm that if around 70 percent of Harvard students receive some form of financial aid, then approximately 30 percent come from families with high incomes. Khurana agreed.
Those lawyers asked Khurana if Harvard’s socioeconomic makeup should look more like America, provided everyone there is qualified to be at school.
Khurana said Harvard is focusing on finding the best talent.
“We’re not trying to mirror the socioeconomic or income status of the United States," he said.
SFFA's lawyers finished the day by asking if having nearly a third of spots at Harvard for some of the country's richest perpetuates income inequality.
"That's not how the admissions process works," Khurana said.
The trial adjourned for the day before questioning of Khurana could be completed. He will take the stand again tomorrow morning.
Marlyn McGrath, the director of admissions for Harvard College, finished her testimony on Monday.
Kirk Carapezza contributed to this report.