The Justice Department is backing Asian-American applicants accusing Harvard of discriminating against them because of race. "Harvard has failed to show that it does not unlawfully discriminate against Asian-Americans," reads a statement of interest filed Thursday by the DOJ, which continues to investigate the matter. Harvard, which receives federal funding, claims some consideration of race is necessary to ensure a diverse student body. But as its admissions process remains a secret, the DOJ says Harvard violates legal parameters requiring schools to show they can't meet diversity-related goals without using race as a factor. "There is ample record evidence that Harvard’s use of race is not narrowly tailored" as required, a DOJ official tells BuzzFeed.
The filing specifically refers to "a vague 'personal rating' that harms Asian-American applicants' chances for admission and may be infected with racial bias," reports the New York Times. A lawsuit brought by Students for Fair Admissions, led by conservative legal activist Edward Blum, claims Asian-American applicants scored higher than other groups in academics and extra-curricular activities, but had consistently lower personal ratings, which are to be based on personality, personal essays, admissions interviews, and teacher recommendations, per the Wall Street Journal. The paper describes the DOJ move as expected considering the Trump administration's efforts to reverse guidelines encouraging the use of race to promote diversity on school campuses, adopted under President Obama. (More on that here.)