On the first day of trial, the plaintiffs have already demonstrated that Harvard has discriminated on the basis of race, with different PSAT thresholds by race for recruiting students.

Harvard Admissions Chief Defends Policies in First Day of Trial
Plaintiffs use internal documents to show different test scores used to target different ethnicities for recruitment
By Nicole Hong and Melissa Korn
Updated Oct. 15, 2018 11:27 p.m. ET
Wall Street Journal

BOSTON—Harvard University’s longtime admissions dean defended the school’s recruitment of prospective students in the first day of a landmark trial accusing Harvard of discriminating against Asian-American applicants.

On Monday, lawyers for the plaintiffs focused on internal documents showing Harvard sends targeted letters to high-school students who score well on the PSAT, encouraging them to consider applying to the prestigious school. The score thresholds vary by race.

In a recent admissions year, white students in 20 underrepresented states—which Harvard calls “sparse country”—received a recruitment letter if they scored 1310 or higher out of a possible 1600 on the combined verbal and math components, according to the plaintiffs’ exhibit. In all U.S. states, Asian-American women had to score at least 1350 to receive a letter, while Asian-American men had to score at least 1380.

The PSAT is considered a preview of how a student may score on the SAT.

Black, Hispanic and Native American high-schoolers nationally who scored at least 1100 received a letter, the plaintiffs’ exhibit showed.

Students who qualify for these letters are twice as likely to be admitted as students who don’t qualify, according to a handbook provided to Harvard’s alumni interviewers.

William Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s admissions dean since 1986, defended the policy by saying the letters to white students in more rural states help the school recruit from areas where students may be less aware of Harvard. “We do everything we can to reach out to a much broader range of people,” he testified.

Mr. Fitzsimmons, 74 years old, said the lower thresholds for underrepresented minorities take into consideration how the “rather stark economic differences and opportunities” those students face may affect their ability to score higher on standardized tests.