How Harvard’s Affirmative Action Case Affects Future Black Students

group lawsuit against Harvard University alleging racial discrimination in its admissions process will likely affect Black students who make up just a fraction of the school’s population.

The legal suit, filed by Students for Fair Admissions on behalf of several Asian students denied admission to Harvard, has put the spotlight on the schools’ racial makeup as well as its attitudes about affirmative action, The Boston Globe reported. Around 23 percent of the nearly 2,000 students admitted into Harvard’s incoming freshman class are Asian-American, as opposed to 16 percent African-American, according to data cited by the Globe.

Asian students charged the predominantly white school with denying them admission because of their race in the lawsuit, which was filed in 2014. Now, Students for Fair Admissions, who were able to secure Harvard’s admissions numbers through the suit, will head to court Friday (June 15) for a case filing about the data.

Ahead of the filing, Harvard’s outgoing University President Drew Faust cried foul and defended the school’s diversity policy Tuesday.

Specifically, the lawsuit presents the issue of whether Harvard has a quota on the number of Asian-American students admitted each year. Plaintiffs cited that Asian students with high SAT scores and grades were rejected from Harvard, suggesting they were victims of discrimination, Inside Higher Education reported.

The case looks at how affirmative action factors into Harvard officials’ decision-making so that marginalized groups, including African Americans, aren’t discriminated against in admissions. Harvard has argued that it strives to create a diverse student body, considering a myriad of admissions factors— including student’s test scores, background and goals—for a legal and fair process.

Unconvinced of Harvard’s fairness, the Department of Justice launched its own investigation into the school’s admissions policies last year and has filed documents in court in favor of Students for Fair Admissions.

With the number of Asian students at Harvard being put underneath a microscope, the number of Black students is being scrutinized as well. The case’s outcome could lead Harvard to re-evaluate how it makes admissions decisions about all students, including those of color. Black students at Harvard have also wanted to carve out their own spaces on campus, holding the first Black Commencement last year. Harvard may cite this ceremony —which drew praise from Black students across the nation looking to attend Harvard— in the defense of its diversity policy. The school may also provide more support for students of color as a result of this lawsuit.

Additionally, the case, which is likely to go to trial, would set a legal precedent for other affirmative action cases against colleges that have competitive admission processes, according to Inside Higher Education. The case could potentially go before the Supreme Court in the future.