Boston Latin School fights to stay out of Harvard admissions lawsuit

The Crimson reports an anti-affirmative-action group that sued Harvard in 2014 over its Asian-American admissions policies is trying to force Boston Latin School to fork over years' worth of records related to its students accepted to Harvard.

Through a Boston city attorney, BLS is fighting what it calls a "fishing expedition" by Students for Fair Admissions that it says would invade the privacy of BLS students and parents, because some of the records would include documentation of discussions between them and their college counselors and waste valuable staff time that would otherwise go to helping students learn and get ready for college.

In a motion to quash a subpoena from the group, filed last week in US District Court in Boston, BLS also says it's not a party to the suit and that any data related to Harvard admissions would best come from Harvard itself.

The judge in the case has not yet ruled on the motion.

Boston Latin typically supplies more Harvard students than any other high school in the world - 26 in the current freshman class - and, as the joke goes, Harvard was founded the year after Latin to give BLS graduates something to do.

Boston motion to quash BLS subpoena (2M PDF).



      Free tagging: 


      Fishing expedition?

      The school has the highest number of admissions to Harvard in the country. The graduating class is 1/3 Asian. What's the demographic of those 26 kids? Where better to conduct a fishing expedition than a well-stocked pond?

      C'mon, BLS, help Harvard disprove those nasty rumors that, a couple generations after discriminating vigorously against Jews, Harvard is using the same methods today to discriminate against Asians.

      How would BLS data help disprove anything?

      How would data from one school prove--or disprove--anything? Admissions is holistic, not an individual meritocracy. The Admissions staff at Harvard is admitting a whole *class* and shapes it each year according to perceived needs rather than a threshold of SAT scores and GPA. The Band needs more tuba players? That guy from North Dakota with the 2400 SAT scores and winner of the Westinghouse Science Award also happens to be a top tuba player--he's in. All the top polo players are graduating next year, so let's restock the polo team. "Free Harvard/Fair Harvard" is just upset that their slate didn't get elected to the Board of Overseers last year so they are pulling out all the stops to drag unrelated parties in.

      Just like you say

      Holistic admissions policies are to shape the whole class. So if a college wants at least 12% Hispanics and 12% African-Americans, but no more than 22% Asians, then that perceived need totally overrules GPA, SAT, and extracurriculars, right?

      In the early part of the 20th century, Harvard had a perceived need for a freshman class that wasn't so Jewish. That's why they adopted admissions policies that reduced the rate of Jews from 27.6% to 17.1% over twenty years. The Ivies held Jews down to 10% through the fifties. Many now-standard admissions methods, such as legacy preference (invented at Yale in 1925), the addition of photos to applications, and a focus on "character," "solidity," and preference for sporting lads, were adopted in that era specifically to screen out Jews.

      It's entirely coincidental that these methods screen out Asians today, amirite?

      Scooby doo!

      Yeah, that's exactly what I'm doing. You've caught me. I'm the real racist. And I'd have gotten away with it too if it weren't for you meddling kids.

      If you want to fight

      By on

      If you want to fight affirmative action at Harvard, then the legacy admissions policy is the biggest affirmative action program around.

      That partly explains why so many BLS students go to Harvard. So many kids at BLS have Harvard alumni and faculty for parents.

      Um, no

      By on

      At least not based on the current class of freshman, which has a large number of children of immigrants, which is actually kind of a cool thing.

      Not according to some....

      current class of freshman, which has a large number of children of immigrants,

      Isn't that the point of the suit? Too many non-deserving non-Asians getting in?

      Not true

      "So many kids at BLS have Harvard alumni and faculty for parents." Nope. Are you confusing Boston Latin School with Cambridge Rindge & Latin, perhaps? That's a public school in Cambridge, and while I still wouldn't say there are "so many," at least at CRLS there are some that fit that description.

      Across the board

      By on

      My guess would be that BLS grads are more exception than rule. I've seen stats that say Harvard and other Ivy schools have 30-40% legacy students. I would imagine that VERY few BLS students fall in that category because you have to be a Boston resident and I would bet very few people with a Harvard degree AND kids call Boston home. Plus BLS is 100% merit no matter who your parents are or where they went to school, so mummy and daddy can't pull strings to get you into BLS in the first place.

      Personally my bigger beef is why is Harvard allowed to be a non-profit and get federal money if they can give special priveleges to the children of the privileged? That's the opposite of affirmative action.

      Knowing you

      By on

      Your son probably deserved to get in either way. :-)

      Dead language my arse

      By on

      Probably one of the most useful classes I ever took (best was probably typing).

      Had a great teacher who stressed word roots as much as the language. Part of our homework was to look up English words with roots in the latin words we were studying. Did wonders for my vocabulary, spelling etc.

      Thank you father Di Blasi!

      The heart of the matter

      The lawsuit is under the 1964 Civil Rights act, according to which educational institutions that receive any federal money are obligated to treat individuals equally, regardless of race or other immutable characteristics. It is clear that Harvard does not.

      The "legacy" method was always a way to get around the frank admission of racial preference, just like instead of saying "too Jewish" when they saw the pictures of applicants in files, they say "I'm not sure this candidate has the vigorous nature to succeed here" or some such weaselish. Because the effect of the legacy method is somewhat indirect (although the effect is the same), The colleges figure they are safe. It's not discrimination on race, it's discrimination on money, which is only natural for a private institution with an endowment larger than most countries.

      The complaint can be found here (pdf):

      And thus the other half of the equation

      By on

      If you discriminate on money, handing out a piece of paper that is a magnet for money and power, how can you be a non profit (given that pecuniary benefits should not accrue to an induvidual for their support of a non-profit).

      I'm sure there are subtle areas of the law that some Harvard legislators and judges put in place to make this all legal, but it flies in the face of principle.

      And then there's the ultimate racial effect of perpetuating the power and affluence of the historically powerful and affluent.

      And this doesn't go just for Harvard.

      It's not a bug

      It's a feature.

      There are principles one stands for, e.g. equality of opportunity for all, or equal justice under the law; and principles one sits for, e.g. the return on capital is greater than growth, or elite universities sustain inheritance of privilege.

      Shouldn't a legacy preference

      By on

      Shouldn't a legacy preference be helping Asian applicants at this point? There have been several generations of Harvard classes that are more than 20% Asian.

      Yes, but

      By on

      Legacy admissions are usually also based on how much mum and pops gave to the school. In my conversations with development types, Asians ate FAR less likely to give back to the school after graduation. Just not a cultural practice. With rising Asian admissions, schools are trying to encourage the practice, with limited success.


      Or maybe legacy admissions - adopted in the 20s as an overt measure to keep Jews out of the Ivies - now needs a little tinkering with to continue to fulfill its new mission. Not all legacies are created equal. Some of the reasons legacies may be judged differently are measurable and tangible - dollars spent on the college - and surely some of the reasons are subjective and cultural, like the rest of the "holistic" applications process. Since Asian-Americans make up 42 percent of technology startup founders, the measurable and tangible will surely be addressed, but by then other, more subjective points will come to the fore.

      Tell that to

      By on

      MIT (Samuel Tak Lee, Amar Bose, Oscar Tang, others).


      By on

      I didn't say it was exclusive. Some Asians are certainly generous to their alma maters. But it's not as customary like it is here.

      Public records?

      documents relating to communications over a six-year period between BLS and various other parties regarding race-conscious admissions at Harvard

      It would seem that some of this stuff mentioned in the article would be public record, which doesn't seem to unreasonable.

      read my quote.....

      That was a quote from the article. Doesn't read to me like they want students report cards. If BLS and Harvard have some sort of dialogue/email going on regarding admissions, you bet that would be public record (they would have to black out the names/grade/identifying info)

      "waste valuable staff time

      By on

      "waste valuable staff time that would otherwise go to helping students learn and get ready for college."

      They didn't have trouble wasting tens of thousands of hours on the investigation on racism against African Americans. The time it takes to provide admissions data is miniscule compared to that investigation. What is the difference? This is an investation on racism against Asians.

      Read the brief

      By on

      Harvard already has all that data. And they're not being asked to provide just data but detailed records related to discussions between counselors and students and their parents. Even if they wanted to comply, that would take more time to assemble. But they don't, and as a parent of a BLS graduate, I'm glad they're pointing out the privacy implications of that (even as the parent of somebody who wouldn't be affected by this particular demand).