The clearest picture of the dueling sides emerged early in the day as both sides presented their opening statements. If college admissions were based on merit alone, black students would have a disproportionately mammoth task ahead of them: not only ensuring that they meet Harvard's standards, but overcoming unfair resource distribution to do so.
The trial in a USA federal court in Boston pits the Ivy League school against Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), whose 2014 lawsuit challenges the use of race as a factor in college admissions decisions.
Harvard counters that courts have repeatedly upheld colleges' right to consider race.
U.S. District Court Judge Allison Burroughs, who was nominated by then Democratic President Barack Obama and seated in 2015, will preside over the upcoming trial, which is expected to last two to three weeks.
A lawsuit challenging the use of race as a factor in U.S. college admissions will go to trial in Boston on Monday.
"The Supreme Court has twice ruled on this issue and has held up our admissions process as an exemplar of how, in seeking to achieve a diverse student body, race may enter the process as one factor among many in consideration". The discrimination took place via the admission's "personality" evaluation. "There, the conservative majority would likely dismantle the architecture of race-conscious admissions policies - something that any diversity- and equality-valuing community should defend at all costs", Pham writes. "This white conservative activist is spearheading the lawsuit against Harvard - a fact that on its own should generate skepticism towards its merits, especially in an audience of color like ours", Pham adds.
The Justice Department last month opened a probe into whether Yale University also discriminates against Asian Americans, and SFFA has a similar case pending against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on behalf of white students.
Harvard denies discriminating against Asian-Americans, saying their rates of admission have grown significantly since 2010.
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"They tend to be much more privileged economically and more highly educated than previous generations of Chinese-Americans or other Asian-Americans", Poon said.
But schools must first use race-neutral options, like grades and test scores, to meet their diversity goals, said Mike Reilly, executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.
"There's an Asian-American penalty, and it's significant", he said.
Lee said that, right now, "Harvard can not achieve its educational goals without considering race". There could be new revelations, for example, about preferences Harvard gives to children of alumni or donors, and a so-called "Z-List" that offers deferred admission to certain students who don't get in through the typical process.
Today in USA higher education, affirmative action refers to policies that give students from underrepresented racial groups an advantage in the college admissions process, said Mark Naison, an African-American studies professor who teaches about affirmative action at Fordham University.
"We're here because SFFA would like to change that law", he said. In court, the group will need to prove that Harvard is intentionally rejecting the applicants because they're Asian, due to their race.
Asian-Americans, who represent about 6 percent of the US population, comprise 23 percent of Harvard's current freshman class.
A trial against Harvard University has begun in the U.S., and may have wide-ranging implications for universities and racial minorities. Harvard mails recruitment letters to black and Hispanic high schoolers with middle-range SAT scores, Fitzsimmons acknowledged, yet only sends such letters to Asian Americans if they have scored more than 200 points higher.