A federal judgeruled Tuesday that Harvard University does not intentionally discriminate against Asian-American applicants. The suit was brought by the group Students for Fair Admissions. The head of that group was also involved in a challenge to the University of Texas' admissions process. Ken Cooper supervises WGBH Radio’s Higher Ed Desk. He spoke with WGBH Radio’s Arun Rath about the ruling. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Arun Rath: So whichever way this was going to go down, this decision is a big deal, right?

Ken Cooper: Yes, it is. It’s important to understand what was at stake here. Going back 40 years, and more recently than that, the Supreme Court has said that the way Harvard seeks to achieve racial ethnic diversity on campus is the way to do it and comply with the constitution. This lawsuit challenged that very model and the court pretty much upheld it without qualification.

Read more: Judge Rules Harvard Does Not Discriminate Against Asian-Americans

Rath: Were there any qualifications? Is it a complete and total win for Harvard?

Cooper: It looks like it to me. I quite frankly expected that Harvard would win, but there'd be some caveats, like, Harvard should have done this or shouldn't have done that. And it's not really in there.

Rath: And it's a fairly detailed ruling that gets into the calculus of all this. What does it tell us?

Cooper: Well the thing that was interesting, and I think one of the things that took Judge Allison Burroughs so long, is that there were competing statistical analyses, fairly sophisticated, you know, regression analysis, trying to determine which factors lead to which outcomes. And she had to compare and contrast them, and a good part of the decision does that, which takes time and takes care.

I would also note that Judge Burroughs has only been on the bench since 2014. This is her first bench trial, i.e. a trial without a jury. So she had reason to be extra careful. And the last thing any trial judge wants, particularly a relatively new one, is for their decisions to be overturned on appeal. So I think that's why she took her time, was very careful. You can see in reading the decision that there was a lot of thought and a lot of analysis and comparing and contrasting of databases and statistics.

Read more: Half Of Judges Who Could Hear Appeal Of Harvard Discrimination Case Went To School There

Rath: Right. So there are certainly a lot of data and statistics in this ruling, in this document. What was the evidence that was there originally? What was the data or information to support that Asian-American applicants were unfairly given less of a chance to get in?

Cooper: Well the plaintiffs in this case made a big deal at trial that Asians on the whole seem to get an average lower score on personal qualities like courage, leadership, sort of the soft skills.

And one of the plaintiff's charges was that you could find notes on Asian-American applicants' files that seemed to play the stereotype, like quiet, shy, that kind of thing.

And Judge Burroughs noted you could actually go to the applicants who were African-American, white or Hispanic and actually find similar comments about being quiet, shy and understated. She was pretty clear in looking at all of the evidence. And she said she had found “No persuasive documentary evidence of any racial animus or conscious prejudice against Asian-Americans.” That last phrase is kind of interesting, because this throws out conscious prejudice but leaves open the question whether there might be some unconscious bias at play.

Rath: It sounds like in the ruling that the judge also said that the way that Harvard uses race in their decisions is OK?

Cooper: Yes, quite certainly so. She says in her final conclusion that it passes constitutional muster and strict scrutiny, which is the highest legal standard in cases like this of what you can and can't do. And it's very much unqualified.

Arun: And finally Ken, I'm sure that the group that brought this suit is not happy. Are they going to be appealing, and how far will this go if it does?

Cooper: They've put out word this afternoon that they do intend to appeal to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, which meets here in Boston. Typically that court hears appeals with a three judge panel. And then the plaintiffs also signaled that if they don't prevail, they'll go all the way to the Supreme Court.