WHO: A series of Harvard administrators took the stand Friday to face cross-examination from both SFFA* and University attorneys.
- Harvard's Director of Research for Admissions and Financial Aid Erica J. Bever was up first, continuing her testimony from the day before. SFFA laywer J. Scott McBride grilled Bever for much of the morning; Harvard lawyer Felicia H. Ellsworth took her turn asking questions after McBride finished.
- Erin Driver-Linn — the Harvard School of Public Health Dean for Education — stepped to the witness stand after Bever. She took questions from SFFA lawyer Katherine L. I. Hacker and, later, Ellsworth.
- The third and final witness Friday was Marlyn E. McGrath '70, Harvard's director of admissions. She answered questions from SFFA attorney Adam K. Mortara and from Lee. Lee was still questioning McGrath when Judge Allison D. Burroughs adjourned proceedings for the day at 4 p.m. He will continue his queries Monday.
WHAT: Bever defended Harvard's apparent failure to take significant action to respond to a 2013 internal report that concluded the College's admissions process produces "negative effects" for Asian Americans. Driver-Linn also discussed the report. McGrath faced a series of questions from SFFA lawyers about internal emails she exchanged with Harvard admissions officers and with her daughter.
- Bever spoke at length about the 2013 report, which she helped produce as part of her work for Harvard's Office of Institutional Research [OIR]. She emphasized that the statistical models OIR employees used to analyze Harvard admissions left out hundreds of variables. And she noted that many factors College reviewers consider are simply not quantifiable. Harvard has repeatedly insisted the 2013 report was limited in scope, relied on incomplete data, and was not meant to conclusively evaluate whether the College discriminates.
- Driver-Linn, who was also involved in producing the 2013 report, spoke mostly on the same topic. She, too, emphasized that OIR models left out specific applicant traits — factors such as candidates' exceptional artistic talent and personal essays. She said the OIR analyses "weren't designed to look for evidence of bias or discrimination."
- When McGrath stepped to the stand, SFFA lawyers had ammo ready. The attorneys introduced a series of Harvard admissions-related emails, some sent by McGrath and some sent to her. Mortara zeroed in on one exchange between McGrath, her daughter Elizabeth Lewis, and long-serving D.C.-area admissions officer David L. Evans in which the trio discussed a less-than-inspiring candidate who had won a spot on the mythical "Z list," a small pool of Harvard admits whose acceptance is deferred for one year. Court documents published over the summer showed that Z listers are overwhelmingly white and wealthy.
- "I'm not sure he was terribly strong (though he was a black legacy)," Lewis wrote.
- "Terrible case," McGrath replied. "We did it entirely for contingent reasons. We never see strong black candidates from [redacted]... I feel badly."
- Lee objected to the introduction of this email chain, arguing it has no relevance to Harvard's alleged discrimination against Asian-American applicants. Mortara countered that the emails are germane because they prove that Harvard is not entirely truthful and transparent in its admissions process.
- Amid frequent objections from Lee, Mortara finished his questioning by asking why the College frequently grants staff interviews to the children of top donors, legacies and athletes — and by pressing her on why Harvard does not use Common Application data on religious identity in its candidate evaluation process. McGrath said the College does not track religious identity due to advice given by Harvard's legal counsel.
- When his turn rolled around, Lee walked McGrath through each piece of evidence Mortara introduced and sought to discredit the SFFA laywer's arguments. He also began asking McGrath about the casebooks Harvard uses to train its admissions officers, but time ran out before he got very far. Lee said he will continue his questions Monday.
*Students for Fair Admissions: https://studentsforfairadmissions.org/