- Tuesday, a federal judge in Boston ruled that Harvard did not discriminate against Asian Americans in its admissions process.
- Judge Allison Burroughs said that while Harvard’s admissions process is flawed, it is a “very fine” system, with Burroughs also concluding that race-neutral alternatives are not sufficient.
- Students For Fair Admissions is expected to appeal the decision to the 1st Court of Appeals and potentially the United States Supreme Court, according to its president, Edward Blum.
- The case has been carefully watched as a potential landmark trial on whether the United States still needs affirmative action.
Judge Rules in Favor of Harvard
A federal judge ruled in favor of Harvard in a 2014 lawsuit that alleged the university had engaged in admissions practices that discriminated against Asian American applicants.
In her Tuesday ruling against the Students For Fair Admissions, Judge Allison Burroughs said, “the Court finds no persuasive documentary evidence of any racial animus or conscious prejudice against Asian Americans.”
Burroughs concluded Harvard had only ever used race as a “plus” factor, writing in her 130-page decision that the university only used race to help students rather than hurt them.
She also said the university shows commitment to recruiting students “who are exceptional across multiple dimensions.”
“The court will not dismantle a very fine admissions program that passes constitutional muster, solely because it could do better,” she said.
Perhaps the biggest conclusion Burroughs reached was that race-neutral alternatives are not sufficient. In fact, she says race-conscious admissions are needed to ensure diversity at Harvard.
She rejected ideas like Harvard admitting every applicant with a perfect GPA, saying the university would have to expand its freshman class by 400 percent each year then reject every student without a perfect GPA regardless of their athletic, extracurricular, or other academic achievements, or life experiences.
Additionally, Burroughs was skeptical of other ideas such as the SFFA’s proposal to have Harvard consider socioeconomic status instead of race. In her decision, she said she feared such a process would not truly be race-neutral.
Harvard’s attorney, William Lee, called the decision “a significant victory not merely for Harvard, but also for all schools and students, for diversity, and for the rule of law. As the court has recognized, now is not the time to turn back the clock on diversity and opportunity.”
What Was in the Lawsuit?
The SFFA primarily accused Harvard of implementing racial balancing techniques in the university’s admissions process, essentially claiming that Harvard set a quota for different minorities in the makeup of its incoming classes.
The SFFA then alleged Asian American students were being forced to meet higher standards, saying Asian American students were consistently performing better academically than other minority races.
It looked to support those claims by providing evidence that the percentage of admitted students from different racial groups was about the same each year, that being 20 percent Asian American, 15 percent African American, 12 percent Latino, and roughly 50 percent caucasian.
In addition to racial balancing, the SFFA accused university admissions officers of promoting racial stereotypes against Asian Americans. That argument boiled down to the university’s personal rating system, which includes aspects like the applicant’s background and their character.
There, the SFFA alleged that admissions officers used stereotypical language describing them as “quiet,” “bland,” or “not exciting.”
Burroughs also addressed this concern in her decision, finding that while officers had described some Asian applicants as “quiet,” “shy,” or “understated,” that language was also used on a significant portion of other students of various racial identities.
While the lawsuit was open, Harvard defended itself by saying while it took race into account, race was only one of about 200 other factors. Some of those other factors include class year, gender, SAT/ACT scores, GPA, as well as intended career and whether or not an applicant’s parents went to an Ivy League school.
What Happens Next?
SFFA President Edward Blum has said he will appeal the case in the 1st Court of Appeals, and if necessary, he would appeal the case to the United States Supreme Court.
The lawsuit represents what could potentially be a pivotal case in the polarizing topic of affirmative action and whether it is still relevant in the U.S. today.
Though the SFFA waits to see if their case is successfully appealed, the lawsuit did pressure Harvard to enact some changes to its admissions process.
Chiefly, the university has directed its admissions officers to “not take an applicant’s race or ethnicity into account in making any of the ratings other than the overall rating.”
It has also changed its personal rating criteria, with officers now being asked to consider “qualities of character.” Some of those include “genuineness,” “selflessness,” “humility,” “spirit and camaraderie with peers,” “courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles,” “leadership,” “maturity,” and “resiliency.”
See what others are saying: (BBC) (CNN) (New York Times)
Biden Issues Targeted Eviction Moratorium for Counties With High Community Transmission
While more limited than the previous eviction ban, the new policy applies to all areas with “substantial” and “high” COVID transmission, which currently includes 80% of counties that compose 90% of the population.
New Eviction Ban
Three days after the federal eviction ban expired, the Biden administration issued a new, more limited moratorium that will extend until Oct. 3.
Unlike the last freeze, the latest version announced Tuesday only pertains to areas of the country experiencing what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labeled “substantial” and “high” cases of COVID-19.
However, the rule still applies to the majority of the country given the new surges driven by the delta variant.
According to the CDC, 80% of counties that make up 90% of the population are currently experiencing substantial or high community transmission.
While not a full ban, many housing still advocates cheered the Biden administration, which has faced immense pressure to help the millions of Americans who risked losing their homes once the previous freeze expired.
“This is a tremendous relief for millions of people who were on the cusp of losing their homes and, with them, their ability to stay safe during the pandemic,” Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in a statement Tuesday.
Still, others noted that there are outstanding issues with the new policy.
First and foremost, while the moratorium covers most Americans, it does not cover all. According to reports, there are counties in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York that are protected from evictions while neighboring counties are not.
The county-to-county patchwork also adds another layer of confusion for many people who are on the brink of eviction or who have already been evicted.
Tenants and landlords are now scrambling to see if the freeze applies to them, and because of the temporary lapse in protection, evictions resumed in some states and cities, meaning that some people who would now be covered under the ban have already been evicted.
Perhaps the most notable obstacle is the fact that the new moratorium will almost certainly face legal challenges.
The Biden administration previously argued that it did not have the jurisdiction to extend the eviction freeze unilaterally, citing a recent decision from the Supreme Court, which ruled that the CDC could not extend the ban past July and that Congressional action was needed.
Three days before the moratorium was set to expire, Biden asked Congress to pass legislation to extend it before leaving for their August recess. Republicans blocked the effort by unanimous consent, and Democratic leaders, frustrated with the president’s last-minute demand that left them with few options, said they did not have enough support for a formal vote.
Biden, for his part, has acknowledged that any freeze that comes from his administration would face this obstacle.
“Any call for [a] moratorium based on the Supreme Court’s recent decision is likely to face obstacles,” he told reporters Tuesday. “I’ve indicated to the CDC, I’d like them to look at other alternatives [other] than the one that is in existence, which the court has declared they’re not going to allow to continue.”
Any legal proceedings, however, will take time, meaning Congress could act before any disputes are resolved. The extended timeframe would also give state and local governments more leeway to distribute the nearly $47 billion in rental aid approved in the last two stimulus packages.
Only $3 billion of the funding has been distributed due to the numerous delays and hurdles municipalities have faced while struggling to create new systems to dole out the much-needed aid.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (CBS News)
Virtually All Emperor Penguins Doomed for Extinction by 2100, Study Finds
The new study comes as the U.S. The Fish and Wildlife Service moves to submit a proposal Wednesday to add the Emperor penguin to its list of threatened species.
Concerns for Emperor Penguins
Nearly all of the world’s emperor penguin colonies may be pushed to the brink of extinction by 2100, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Global Change Biology.
More specifically, researchers behind the study said 98% of the colonies could be gone in the next 80 years if climate change continues causing sea ice to melt at its current pace. About 70% of colonies could die off by 2050, it added.
That is pretty huge news because Emperor penguins — the world’s largest penguin species —are a vital part of the Antarctic food chain. They prey on krill, squid, and small fish, and provide a source of food for leopard seals and killer whales.
However, the birds are particularly vulnerable to climate change because they depend on sea ice for viral activities like breeding, feeding, and molting, along with resting or seeking refuge from predators.
U.S. Moves To Protect the Species
The new study comes as the U.S. government considers adding the Emperor penguin to its list of threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to build off this new research, along with other data, for its proposal on Wednesday. Once published in the Federal Register, the proposal will be open to a 60-day public comment period.
If the classification is granted, the species would receive protections, including a ban on importations of the birds for commercial purposes.
“These penguins are hard hit by the climate crisis, and the U.S. government is finally recognizing that threat,” Sarah Uhlemann, international program director at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, told the Associated Press.
“Climate change, a priority challenge for this Administration, impacts a variety of species throughout the world,” said Martha Williams, principal deputy director of the wildlife service. “The decisions made by policymakers today and during the next few decades will determine the fate of the Emperor penguin.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (AP News)
Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations
The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter
Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.
Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.
DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools
On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.
The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.
DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.
At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.
Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.