A lawsuit filed in Boston has accused Harvard University of discriminating against Asian-American applicants by scoring them lower than others on personality traits, reported The New York Times on Saturday.

Asian-American scored higher than applicants of other racial or ethnic groups on parameters such as test scores and extracurricular activities, but low ratings on personality reduced their chances of getting admitted, a nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions claimed in its lawsuit that was filed on Friday.

The university also allegedly buried the findings of an internal investigation into its admission policies in 2013 after it found that there was a bias against Asian-American applicants, documents submitted in court showed. The findings were never made public.

The investigation had found that over a decade, white candidates outperformed Asian-Americans only in traits such as “positive personality”, likeability, courage, kindness and being “widely respected”, the documents said.

“Incontrovertible evidence shows that Harvard’s admissions policy has a disproportionately negative effect on Asian-Americans vis-à-vis similarly situated white applicants that cannot be explained on non-discriminatory grounds,” the organisation said in the lawsuit.

Harvard defended itself by saying that the 2013 report was “preliminary and incomplete”. The percentage of Asian-Americans actually grew 29% over the last decade, the university told the court. It said the organisation’s “incomplete and misleading data analysis paint a dangerously inaccurate picture of Harvard College’s whole-person admissions process by omitting critical data and information factors”.

Harvard defines “Asian-Americans” as those of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Hmong or Indian descent.