First Circuit Rules Harvard Admissions Process Does Not Violate Title VI


A pair of judges for the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday morning that, while the anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions had standing to sue Harvard, the University's race-conscious admissions processes do not violate civil rights law.

The ruling affirms a holding last fall by District Court Judge Allison D. Burroughs, who also favored Harvard's defense after a three-week-long trial in Oct. 2018. It comes less than two months after the appeals court fielded oral arguments.

First Circuit judges Jeffrey R. Howard and Sandra L. Lynch wrote in their opinion that Burroughs correctly decided several key components of the case, including that Harvard did not engage in racial balancing and that the University considered race-neutral alternatives.

Harvard spokesperson Rachael Dane wrote in an emailed statement that the University welcomed the ruling.


“Today’s decision once again finds that Harvard’s admissions policies are consistent with Supreme Court precedent, and lawfully and appropriately pursue Harvard’s efforts to create a diverse campus that promotes learning and encourages mutual respect and understanding in our community," she wrote. "As we have said time and time again, now is not the time to turn back the clock on diversity and opportunity.”

SFFA first sued Harvard in 2014. On Thursday morning, the group indicated its legal battle with the University will continue.

SFFA President Edward Blum wrote in an emailed statement that he was “disappointed” by the First Circuit ruling.

“Our hope is not lost,” Blum said in the written statement. “This lawsuit is now on track to go up to the U.S. Supreme Court where we will ask the justices to end these unfair and unconstitutional race-based admissions policies at Harvard and all colleges and universities.”

This is a developing story. Check for updates.

—Staff writer Benjamin L. Fu can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @BenFu_2.

—Staff writer Dohyun Kim can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @dohyunkim__.