Former Harvard president Drew Faust testified Thursday on the final day of Harvard's defense against a discrimination lawsuit in court. The school is being sued by a group called Students for Fair Admissions, which argues the school treats Asian-American applicants unfairly and ranks them lower on intangibles.
Faust, who took office in 2007 and left in June, said she was "responsible for everything" at the university during her time there, which drew a round of chuckles from the gallery.
On the stand, she reaffirmed the emphasis the school places on diversity of all kinds, including racial and ethnic diversity.
“There are a wide range of types of diversity that matter to us," she said.
Faust pointed out this was more than a talking point for Harvard, as the school's financial aid spending had increased to around $200 million by the time she left the president's office.
She said that the assertion that Harvard discriminates against Asian-American applicants is counter to the history of the school over the past few decades.
"It’s totally at odds with who we are and what we believe," she said.
SFFA's lawyers began their questioning of Faust by bringing up a sore spot in Harvard's history: the school adopting the holistic admission process, in part, to limit the number of Jewish students.
Faust said she knew that in the early 1900s Harvard president Lawrence Lowell adopted to policy to curb the number of Jewish applicants accepted during his tenure.
She also said making an equation between that process and the current one is inaccurate.
SFFA also recalled Marlyn McGrath, Harvard College's director of admissions, who had testified earlier in the trial.
Right before the trial started, Harvard adopted new reading procedures for its admissions officers that featured specific instructions on how to regard an applicants race.
When considering the overall rating of an applicant, the revised instructions say "the consideration of race or ethnicity may be considered only as one factor among many," with the word "only" bolded and underlined.
It also has guidance on making a personal rating for applicants that reads: "It is important to keep in mind that characteristics not always synonymous with extroversion are similarly valued. Applicants who seem to be particularly reflective, insightful and/or dedicated should receive higher personal ratings as well."
Throughout the course of the trial, SFFA's lawyers have brought up that a common stereotype that Asian Americans are quiet or reserved. They claim these are qualities Harvard disproportionately assigns to Asian Americans.
McGrath said these new written instructions had been Harvard's standards, even if they hadn't necessarily been written down.
"It memorializes our normal practice," she said.
SFFA pointed out Harvard's admissions practices had become public over the summer, right before the procedures changed.
David Card, an economics professor at UC Berkeley, also finished up his testimony as Harvard's statistical expert witness on its admissions practices.
Both Harvard and SFFA will present closing arguments on Friday.