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Tentative Jan. 2019 Date Set for Admissions Lawsuit Trial

Harvard’s Office of Admissions and Financial Aid lies on Brattle Street.
Harvard’s Office of Admissions and Financial Aid lies on Brattle Street. By Mirac M. Suzgun
By Delano R. Franklin and Samuel W. Zwickel, Crimson Staff Writers

A lawsuit alleging discrimination against Asian-American students in the College’s admissions process may now be scheduled for trial in Jan. 2019, according to a March 14 case filing.

The case filing comes only a few days after a previous March 9 filing which had indicated a trial may commence as early as July 2018.

Allison D. Burroughs, a U.S. district court judge who is hearing the case in Boston, laid out a timeline for forthcoming stages of the lawsuit, including consideration of an anticipated dispositive motion over the summer—something the plaintiffs hope may lead to a summary judgement in its favor.

Outstanding disagreements over the handling of confidential information, such as data related to students’ admissions files—along with a proposed trial schedule—will be considered at an April 10 hearing.

This is the latest development in the ongoing lawsuit filed in 2014 by anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions.

The March 9 status report filed by representatives from both SFFA and the University, laid out the parties’ priorities as the discovery period for the case comes to a close.

In the report, Harvard said the University “respectfully requests that the Court schedule a bench trial commencing in mid-July 2018.” Should the trial be delayed past the summer, Harvard argues, a variety of logistical barriers may make it “impossible to hold a trial in this case until the late spring or summer of 2019.”

SFFA instead makes the case for a potential summary judgement, as opposed to a full trial, and “requests that the Court maintain the existing schedule and either refrain from setting a trial date or set trial for at least two months after summary judgment briefing concludes.”

The new order sets summer deadlines for the filing of amicus briefs in favor or opposition of a dispositive motion, which could lead to a summary judgement—allowing the court to “make a judgment as to whether trial is necessary” and “allow any trial to proceed more expeditiously than it might otherwise,” according to SFFA’s portion of the report.

As the case moves closer to trial, the parties will address the potential release of prior applicants’ confidential records and Harvard’s secretive admissions process. Harvard and SFFA continue to dispute the extent to which that information should be made public.

Edward Blum, president of SFFA, said his organization hopes to make public all of the evidence considered in the case.

“Students for Fair Admissions looks forward to showing the court and the American public the complete record of our legal endeavors during the past three and a half years,” Blum said.

Harvard spokesperson Anna G. Cowenhoven did not comment on the specific provisions of Burroughs’ order, though a statement from the University regarding the related Justice Department probe noted that Harvard “seeks to prevent public disclosure of confidential and highly sensitive student and applicant information entrusted to our protection.”

—Staff writer Samuel W. Zwickel can be reached at


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