Dozens of supporters and observers packed into the courtroom and two overflow rooms Monday, a day after backers from both sides hosted separate rallies in the Boston area.
As the law stands, colleges can consider race in admissions if it is one of many factors considered when evaluating a student for admission, said Curt Levey, a lawyer who argued against the University of MI in its affirmative action cases.
(Students for Fair Admissions, the group challenging Harvard's use of affirmative action in Boston this week, also backed Fisher, a white female, in this lawsuit.) The court ruled on Fisher's case in 2016, saying that schools must prove their race-conscious admissions strategy is the only way to achieve diversity.
The group Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) is claiming the school uses the illegal practice of "racial balancing", rating Asian Americans lower on certain personal traits to decrease their likelihood of admission.
"Let me be unequivocal: The College's admissions process does not discriminate against anybody", Bacow wrote.
First on the stand was Dean of Admissions William Fitzsimmons, whose office of 40 people oversees the annual screening of an estimated 40,000 applications to determine which high schoolers receive one of the 2,000 acceptance letters Harvard sends out.
Barring a surprise change in strategy, the plaintiff's attorneys do not plan to call as witnesses any Asian Americans who allege that they were victimized by Harvard.
Harvard University discriminates against Asian-American applicants in order to illegally limit how many it admits, a lawyer for a group suing the school has said at the start of a closely watched trial. The U.S. Justice Department is also investigating Harvard over alleged discrimination against Asian-Americans, and Yale was recently announced as the subject of a similar investigation by the Justice and Education departments. The group is based in Arlington, Virginia, and says it has more than 20,000 members, including at least some Asian-Americans who were rejected from Harvard. Meanwhile, he argued, black and Latino students get a decisive advantage due to their race.
Equal education rights for all is an Asian American dream, they said.
Harvard says they use a "holistic" strategy to evaluate students, and that race is only one minor consideration.
Last November, Harvard was accused of limiting the number of Asian Americans admitted into the university.
Following opening arguments, Harvard dean of admissions William Fitzsimmons is slated as first on the stand in MA district federal court, the Wall Street Journal reported.
"Harvard is systemically saying that Asian candidates are not likeable and don't have good personalities. which is nothing but racist", says Lee Cheng, a lawyer and secretary of the Asian American Legal Foundation, which supports the lawsuit.
Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard is likely to be one of the most consequential race cases in decades, with affirmative action policies across the country at stake. This couldn't be further from the truth - a study of the 2011-2012 school year found that while 81 percent of Asian-American students had access to college-preparatory math and science courses, only 57 percent of black students enjoyed the same privileges.
Media captionIn the wake of a US Supreme Court decision over Michigan's affirmative action policies, the BBC takes a look at American public opinion on the issue.
But regardless of the outcome, the loser is expected to appeal the verdict to the US Supreme Court.
The replacement of conservative Kavanaugh, for the more moderate retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, increases the chances that the 1978 affirmative action landmark, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, would be overruled.