The federal judge presiding over the Harvard discrimination trial had several questions for witnesses today, including why Asians are lumped into one large demographic group.
A group called Students for Fair Admissions or SFFA is suing Harvard, saying the school treats Asian Americans unfairly in its admissions process and holds them to higher standards than other groups.
SFFA's lawyers called Roger Banks, the senior associate director of admissions at Harvard, and questioned him on his membership in the Association of Black Admissions and Financial Aid Officers of The Ivy League And Sister Schools, a group that includes members from MIT and Stanford.
When questioned by Harvard, Banks said the group didn't have any role in admissions at any college. He also said the organization is committed to recruiting Asian-American, African-American, Hispanic and Native American students.
While Banks was on the stand, federal District Court Judge Allison Burroughs, who is overseeing the trial, asked how categories like Asian-Americans are determined. She pointed out that while Asian-Americans are commonly lumped together, Native Americans and Native Hawaiians are separated.
Banks said the discussions on these kind of categories have evolved.
"From the standpoint of recruitment, generally speaking, we don’t have the kind of resources to review people of particular subgroups, per se," he said.
Banks pointed to Cambodians as one group that historically has been underrepresented at Harvard so the school has tried to target them in terms of outreach and recruitment.
When Tia Ray, the current director of Harvard's Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program, was on the stand, Burroughs also questioned her on why Mexican-Americans were singled out within that program.
Ray said that at the time the minority recruitment program was formed, many of the students self-identified as Mexican-American.
Earlier in the day, Charlene Kim, who works in the admissions office, testified.
When it was Harvard's turn for questioning, they asked Kim, who is Asian-American, how she reacted when she heard the accusations that have been levied against Harvard. She said she was surprised.
“I would never be a part of a process that discriminates against anyone, let alone someone who looks like me …. like my daughter," she said.
Burroughs also asked Kim if Harvard has geographic quotas for applicants in an effort to make sure the school get students from more rural states like Wyoming.
Kim said it is her understanding that no such quotas are used.
Mark Hansen, a former employee in Harvard's Office of Institutional Research, also testified on a 2013 report from the office that showed Asian applicants are at a disadvantage in the admissions process.
In his testimony, Hansen said while Asian-Americans are at a disadvantage, he’s not sure whether there’s intentional bias.
When Harvard's lawyers asked Hansen why he never reported to anyone that there was bias against Asian-American applicants, he said, "It's not a conclusion this type of analysis would support."
Harvard has dismissed the report at preliminary.
The trial continues tomorrow.
Kirk Carapezza contributed to this report.