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Judge Rules Harvard Did Not Engage in Asian American Admissions Discrimination

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  • 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)

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Nearly 700,000 People to Lose Food Stamp Aid Under New Policy

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  • A new rule was finalized on Wednesday that tightens work restrictions for the federal food stamp program.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 688,000 people will be cut from the program when the rule takes effect next year.
  • Those in favor of the change argue that it will push unemployed individuals to find jobs, while critics say it will hurt them more than it will help them.

New Rule

Trump administration finalized a new rule that could remove almost 700,000 people from the federal food stamp program. The rule, announced in a press release on Wednesday, creates stricter work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) final rule promotes work for able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 49 without dependents,” the press release said.  

Under current regulations, this demographic can receive three months of SNAP benefits throughout a three year period, unless they work or undergo professional training for at least 20 hours a week. 

States have had the ability to waive this time limit to account for economic turbulence, and counties with unemployment rates as low as 2.5% were eligible for these remissions. The new rule will make 6% the minimum unemployment rate to qualify for these waivers, according to the Washington Post.

It will take effect on April 1, 2020.

Impact on Americans

While the USDA originally estimated that up to 750,000 people would be cut from SNAP with this change, now they have adjusted that number to 688,000. 

The finalized regulation is the first of three proposed measures to limit access to the federal food stamp program. A new study by the Urban Institute found that if the other two rules are approved, nearly 4 million people would lose access to food benefits.

After the new rule was proposed in February, there was an abundance of public comments imploring the administration not to go through with it. 

But the USDA was not swayed and held strong in their argument that SNAP should be a form of temporary assistance instead of a long-term lifestyle. 

“Government can be a powerful force for good, but government dependency has never been the American dream,” said Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture. “We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand but not allowing it to become an indefinitely giving hand.”

Those who support the rule are optimistic that it will push unemployed individuals to find jobs. 

“The changes reflect the belief that more Americans can enter and reenter the workforce,” Brandon Lipps, the USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary, told the Washington Post. “So they can know the dignity of work.”

Critics of the change were extremely disappointed upon the news of the rule’s finalization, deeming it a step in the wrong direction.

“The Trump administration is driving the vulnerable into hunger just as the Christmas season approaches,” Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, said on the floor Wednesday. “It is heartless. It is cruel. It exposes a deep and shameful cruelness and hypocrisy in this administration.”

Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, chairwoman of the House Agriculture Committee’s subcommittee on nutrition, released a press statement on Wednesday after hearing the news.

“The Administration refuses to take an honest look at the people they are targeting with this rule and what challenges they face that contribute to their hunger…” she said. “…Instead of considering hungry individuals and their unique struggles and needs, the Department has chosen to paint them with the broadest brush, demonizing them as lazy and undeserving.”

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (NPR) (NBC)

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Melania Trump Blasts Law Professor for Dropping Son’s Name in Impeachment Testimony Joke

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  • Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan made a joke referencing President Donald Trump’s son in her impeachment hearing testimony on Wednesday. 
  • Melania Trump criticized Karlan on Twitter for bringing her child into a political matter.
  • Some condemned Karlan while others thought her wordplay was harmless. 
  • Many Twitter users called the FLOTUS hypocritical for defending her child but staying silent on her husband’s treatment of other minors, including teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg and migrant children experiencing inhumane treatment at the border.

Karlan’s Joke

Pamela Karlan, a Stanford law professor, dropped a controversial joke while testifying in the ongoing impeachment hearing against President Donald Trump on Wednesday. 

While explaining the difference between the POTUS and a king, she used a play on words with the name of his teenage son, Barron.

“The constitution says there can be no titles of nobility,” Karlan said. “So while the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron.”

Karlan’s joke received a scattering of laughter around the room, including a chuckle from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who posed the question of how the president compares to royalty.  

Melania Trump took to Twitter to defend her son, condemning Karlan’s name-dropping comment. 

“A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics,” the first lady wrote. “Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it.”

Further Backlash

Karlan was put on blast by other prominent figures for her mention of the president’s son. Vice President Mike Pence called her joke a “new low.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida who strongly supports the president, chastised her directly on the floor Wednesday. 

“Let me also suggest that when you invoke the President’s son’s name here, when you try to make a little joke out of referencing Barron Trump, that does not lend credibility to your argument,” he said. “It makes you look mean.”

The Trump campaign released an official statement on the topic.

“Only in the mind of crazed liberals is it funny to drag a 13-year-old into the impeachment nonsense,” National Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said.

Karlan’s Apology

Later in the day, Prof. Karlan apologized for her remarks, but not without mentioning that she wishes Donald Trump would also admit to his faults. 

“I want to apologize for what I said earlier about the president’s son. It was wrong of me to do that,” she said during her testimony. “I wish the president would apologize obviously for the things that he’s done that’s wrong, but I do regret having said that.”

Defense of the Professor

While some were outraged by Karlan’s play on words, others spoke up to defend her, deeming the joke harmless.

Some Twitter users criticized the FLOTUS for being quick to defend her own son but staying silent on her husband’s treatment of other minors, including teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg and migrant children experience inhumane treatment at the border.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (NBC) (Newsweek)

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George Zimmerman Sues Trayvon Martin’s Family for $100M, Citing Defamation

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  • George Zimmerman is suing Trayvon Martin’s parents, their lawyer, and a publishing company for $100 million, citing defamation relating to the 2013 case involving Martin’s shooting.
  • The lawsuit cites a documentary titled The Trayvon Hoax, which accuses Martin’s parents of falsifying testimony.
  • Ben Crump, a lawyer for Martin’s parents, called the lawsuit unfounded and reckless.

Zimmerman’s Lawsuit

The man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin is now suing Martin’s family, their lawyer, and a publishing company for allegedly engaging in false testimony during the 2013 trials related to Martin’s death.

According to reports, George Zimmerman and his lawyers are alleging defamation, saying that Martin family and their prosecutors “have worked in concert to deprive Zimmerman of his constitutional and other legal rights.” Because of this, Zimmerman is asking for $100 million in civil damages.

Zimmerman’s suit cites information from a documentary titled The Trayvon Hoax. It also claims that the Martin family lied in court. 

Zimmerman’s suit cites information from a documentary titled The Trayvon Hoax. It also claims that the Martin family lied in court. 

On top of suing Martin’s family, Zimmerman is also suing the publisher Harper Collins after it released a book titled Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People, which was written by Ben Crump, the lawyer who represented Martin’s family in the case against Zimmerman.

While The Trayvon Hoax was scheduled to be screened at the Coral Gable Art Cinema Thursday following a noon press conference giving more details about the lawsuit, the theater later canceled the screening as news of Zimmerman’s lawsuit surfaced.

In a statement responding to the allegations, Crump said he hoped the lawsuit would soon be thrown out.

“I have every confidence that this unfounded and reckless lawsuit will be revealed for what it is – another failed attempt to defend the indefensible and a shameless attempt to profit off the lives and grief of others,” he said.

Trayvon Martin’s Death

Zimmerman shot and killed Martin in Florida on Feb. 26, 2012. At the time, Martin had been visiting his father.

The night he died, Martin had reportedly been walking home after buying candy and a drink at a gas station. Zimmerman, who was part of the community’s volunteer neighborhood watch, then called the police to report a suspicious-looking person in a dark hoodie.

“These assholes, they always get away,” Zimmerman told the dispatcher.

About two minutes into the call, Zimmerman said he saw Martin then began to run. He then chased after Martin despite the dispatcher telling him not to.

Soon after the phone call ended, Zimmerman and Martin reportedly engaged in a violent altercation that ultimately led to Martin’s death.

Zimmerman was then arrested and charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter.

In the months that followed, the trial gained national scrutiny as many waited to see what would happen to Zimmerman after shooting an unarmed black teenager.

Ultimately, Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges in 2013 after claiming self-defense in court.

See what others are saying: (Miami Herald) (Washington Post) (NBC News)

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