Does Harvard discriminate against Asians? In a case that could upend college admissions, the Ivy League goes on trial

Both Harrison Chen and Thang Diep graduated No. 1 from public high schools. Both excelled in extracurricular activities and scored high on their college admissions tests. And both are Asian American.

But the similarities stop there.

Chen, who was raised by middle-class Chinese immigrants outside Raleigh, N.C., was rejected by Harvard University. Diep, a Vietnamese immigrant who grew up in a working-class family in Reseda, got in.

Their experiences have left them with distinct feelings about affirmative action and a federal lawsuit against Harvard that puts Asian Americans at the center of one of the most contentious issues in higher education.

Chen opposes the consideration of race in college admissions and plans to join like-minded Asian Americans at a rally in Boston on Sunday, a day before Harvard is scheduled to go on trial.

“People should be judged on character and merit,” said Chen, an 18-year-old freshman at his backup choice, Vanderbilt University in Nashville. “What does the color of your skin have to do with admissions?”