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Federal Appeals Court Rules That Harvard Does Not Discriminate in Admissions

A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that Harvard is not violating civil rights law in its admissions, supporting a lower-court ruling that rejected claims that the college was discriminating against Asian-Americans by holding them to a higher standard than other applicants.

Students for Fair Admissions, a conservative legal action group representing a number of Asian-American students rejected by Harvard, has vowed to take the case to the Supreme Court, where a strong 6-3 conservative majority is expected to be open to reconsidering 40 years of precedent on affirmative action.

“Our hope is not lost,” said Edward Blum, president of Students for Fair Admissions. “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.”

The Harvard case is among several attacking affirmative action that will go forward in the courts even after the Trump administration, which has backed efforts to end race-based admissions policies, leaves office. They include litigation brought by Mr. Blum’s group against the University of North Carolina and the University of Texas.

If the Supreme Court chooses to hear the cases involving Harvard and North Carolina, the justices could decide the issue on both constitutional grounds, at a public university, and under civil rights law, at the private one.

“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” Rachael Dane, a spokeswoman for Harvard, said. “As we have said time and time again, now is not the time to turn back the clock on diversity and opportunity.”

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