Harvard is releasing years of applicants’ private information to federal court for an affirmative action lawsuit.
Harvard sent out an email to all individuals who applied between the fall of 2009 and the spring of 2015, informing them that their application information may be used in a lawsuit that the university is currently facing.
Harvard is being sued in federal court for its undergraduate admissions practices in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College (Harvard Corporation). Students for Fair Admissions, by The Harvard Crimson as an “anti-affirmative action group,” is suing the university for allegedly discriminating against Asian American applicants.
The university will be required to send the SFFA certain information from these applications, including academic, extracurricular and demographic information. Harvard made clear in the email that names and social security numbers will not be released. In addition, Harvard clarified that the SFFA may not use the information to attempt to learn the identity of any applicant or contact any applicant without first obtaining approval from the court. The email also linked to a Frequently Asked Questions page, to address potential concerns. However, concerns about privacy still remain.
Many high school students consider and apply to both Harvard and Penn, meaning that the email from Harvard was sent to many current Penn students. Some Penn students are not okay with the court obtaining their application information.
“Even though they are not giving out my name or social security number, I’m not so comfortable with the fact that all my academic and extracurricular information could be out there,” said College freshman Arjun Swaminathan, who applied to Harvard and has an older brother currently attending Harvard.
Other students do not mind the potential use of their information.
“I don’t care that much ... I’m just kind of a statistic, not really an actual person,” said College freshman Caroline Gibson, another past Harvard applicant.
Gibson made a comparison between application information and social media.
“I wouldn’t have put anything on there that I wouldn’t be comfortable with most of the world knowing ... It’s kind of like social media. Don’t put things there that you wouldn’t want people to see,” Gibson said. “You know there’s going to be like a review board reading it, and the application is going to be how they perceive or judge me. So I tried to put myself in the best light.”
“Frankly I don’t really have anything against it,” College freshman Nick Shevchik said. “I guess I waived that privilege when I applied.”
Students who wish to prevent their application information from being released can hire lawyers or attempt to contact the court directly. This option is not feasible or convenient for all students.
“Given that a student needs to go through the process of having a lawyer and all to not have their information released, considering the effort that goes into that, I don’t think there’s really much that can be done,” Swaminathan added.
The release of application information to the court begins on Oct. 28.
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