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Court Rejects Harvard's Dismissal of Admissions Lawsuit

By William S. Flanagan and Michael E. Xie, Crimson Staff Writers

A federal court rejected Harvard’s motion to dismiss an ongoing lawsuit accusing the College of race-based discrimination against Asian Americans in its admissions practices.

Harvard filed its motion to dismiss the lawsuit in Sept. 2016, arguing that the case’s plaintiff—the anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions—lacked the grounds to litigate on behalf of its members because those members “have no power to influence [the organization’s] conduct.”

In an order filed June 2, U.S. District Judge Allison D. Burroughs denied Harvard’s motion, ruling instead that SFFA has the “associational standing necessary to pursue this litigation.” Because a number of SFFA’s members—including seven rejected Asian American applicants to Harvard and two high school students who intend to apply in the future—submitted signed declarations of support, Burroughs ruled that SFFA sufficiently represents its members and has standing to sue.

Burroughs did, however, grant Harvard a separate motion to strike two clauses of SFFA’s original complaint. The struck clauses include SFFA’s claims that Supreme Court precedents permitting the use of race as a factor in admissions decisions should be overruled.

Counsel for the University argued that the clauses were at odds with Supreme Court decisions, including the second Fisher v. University of Texas ruling, that race-conscious admissions practices are constitutional. Burroughs, in the June 2 order, agreed with Harvard and wrote that overruling Supreme Court was something the Mass. District Court “decidedly cannot do.”

The current stage of the lawsuit, an eleven-month discovery period, is set to end on June 20. However, legal counsel for SFFA has requested that the period be extencded “until the Court rules on the pending discovery disputes.” Harvard has disputed the request.

—Staff writer William S. Flanagan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @willflan21.

—Staff writer Michael E. Xie can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MichaelEXie1.

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