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Asian-American Group Expands Support For Lawsuit Against Harvard

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More than 30 different Harvard student, alumni and staff groups rallied in Harvard Square on Oct. 14, 2018 to show their support for diversity on campus. The rally was held on the eve of a trial that seeks to eliminate race in the Harvard admissions process.
Meredith Nierman/WGBH News

Asian-American organizations across the country supporting a federal lawsuit against Harvard University's admissions practices have grown in number and expanded into other Asian subgroups beyond Chinese, according to a court brief filed in Boston Tuesday.

Last year, 158 groups — dominated by Chinese-American ones — supported a similar brief filed in the pending case accusing Harvard of discriminating against Asian-American applicants. The latest brief has the backing of 270 organizations, including 30 Korean-American groups joining in for the first time.

Large Indian-American organizations, such as National Federation of Indian American Associations, Global Organization of People of India Origin and American Hindu Coalition, also cosigned the brief. Of the 270 total, 230 are nonprofit associations and educational institutions.

In this latest brief, the Asian-American Coalition for Education once again accuses Harvard of using racial quotas and stereotyping.

Read more: In Harvard Discrimination Case, A Duel Between Narratives And Statistics

Wenyuan Wu, the coalition's director of administration, said Harvard's race-conscious admissions model has been ineffective when it comes to enrolling more low-income students.

"We strongly believe Harvard's admissions policy, which is hyper-focused on race, is only a Band-Aid that conceals the root cause behind a lack of diversity on college campuses," she said.

Wu said statistical evidence presented at a three-week trial in October before U.S. District Court Judge Allison D. Burroughs shows that Harvard discriminates against Asian-Americans in rural areas.

"Harvard sends invitation letters to white students with PSAT scores of around 1310, but not to Asian males with scores of 1370 and higher,” she said.

In a statement, coalition president Yukong Zhao said Harvard’s admissions model has placed unfair burdens on Asian-Americans, resulting in high rates of depression and even suicides.

“It is a modern-day social injustice done to Asian-Americans by powerful institutions and the political establishment,” Zhao said. “It clearly undermines the spirit of the American Dream, which promises that each American citizen should have equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination and initiative.”

The lawsuit was brought by the group Students for Fair Admissions led by conservative legal strategist Edward Blum, who is white.

Dozens of other Asian-American groups have filed briefs siding with Harvard. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed their brief on Wednesday.

“The lived experiences of many students of color simply cannot be separated from their race,” said Jin Hee Lee, the fund’s senior deputy director of litigation. “The court’s decision in this case may affect the ability of college and universities across the country to provide an education enriched by the vibrant diversity that our nation has to offer.”

Burroughs has scheduled another court hearing for February and is expected to issue her decision later this year.

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