In recent days, activity in the Harvard admissions lawsuit has exploded. Both anti-civil rights activist Edward Blum and Harvard filed responses to their cross-motions for summary judgment. Numerous prominent organizations -- including the Coalition for a Diverse Harvard -- and scholars filed friend-of-the-court briefs supporting Harvard’s admissions policies and condemning the threat the lawsuit poses to diversity at all American colleges. Most significantly, the Trump Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest supporting Blum’s efforts to bar all consideration of race in admissions.
In the lead article in the 8/31/18 New York Times, our own Jeannie Park responded:
“It’s alarming that Trump is aligning himself with anti-civil rights activist Edward Blum in this subversive attempt to say that civil rights protections cause discrimination,” said Jeannie Park, the head of the Harvard Asian-American Alumni Alliance and co-founder of the Coalition for a Diverse Harvard, referring to the founder of Students for Fair Admissions. “Trump does not speak for Asian-Americans, just as Blum does not.”
Here are highlights from six amicus briefs filed on Aug. 30.
In our second motion and amicus brief, linked in LDF’s press release, we are proud to be joined by four additional organizations: Harvard Asian American Alumni Alliance, the Harvard Black Alumni Society, the Association of Black Harvard Women, and 21 Colorful Crimson (see their declarations linked in the press release). Our brief argues that removing race from the admissions process would not rectify any discrimination against Asian Americans but would instead deepen racial disparities in admission rates and result in an advantage for white applicants. Black, Latinx, Native American, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander applicants would be disproportionately impacted.
Moreover, colleges cannot assemble a diverse student body without considering how race affects each applicant’s opportunity to build a strong college application. Applicants of color face racial bias in standardized testing and extreme inequities in primary and secondary education due to implicit racial bias and structural racism. These students are more likely to have less-experienced teachers; go to schools that lack a college counselor, art instruction, or extracurricular activities; and be subjected to discipline that removes them from their classrooms and deprives them of valuable instructional time.
This brief signed by 531 scholars, linked here, addresses (1) why Asian American applicants, like applicants of all races, benefit from Harvard’s whole-person review process; and (2) why SFFA’s arguments are based on racial myths and stereotypes of Asian Americans. “The case against Harvard does not . . . fit with the research of hundreds of Asian American scholars and social scientists who study Asian Americans or access to higher education,” says Dr. Janelle Wong, professor of Asian American Studies at the University of Maryland.
“Considering race as one of many factors in order to create a diverse student-body is not only a worthy institutional goal of a university, it’s one protected by the Supreme Court. Students who learn from each other and are exposed to a variety of experiences, backgrounds, interests, and talents are better prepared for a pluralistic society. Refusing to recognize race or any other characteristic in admissions is inconsistent with the value of considering each person individually. Claiming not to see color simply recycles the tired myth of a post-racial America. If you cannot acknowledge someone’s race, you risk not acknowledging them.” The ACLU’s press release, which links it amicus brief, is linked here.
Groups including 18 Million Rising, Asian American Psychological Association, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Japanese American Citizens League, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium, National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, and Southeast Asia Resource Action Center joined the Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund. "Asian Americans are an extremely diverse population with more than 50 ethnic groups, 100 languages, and a broad range of immigration, socioeconomic, and educational backgrounds, says AALDEF director Margaret Fung in a press release which links their brief. “Instead of treating Asian Americans as a monolithic group, the individualized race-conscious admissions process at Harvard helps to create a more diverse student body that benefits all students, including Asian Americans." In this brief, amici contend that by improperly grouping the diverse pool of Asian American applicants into a single "Asian" category, the plaintiff actually perpetuates the "model minority" myth and fails to disclose that its requested remedy--the elimination of race-conscious admissions--would mostly benefit white applicants, not Asian Americans.
These amici include a Nobel laureate, four former Chief Economists of federal agencies, current and former university administrators, editors of peer-reviewed journals, and professors whose research focuses on higher education, including Diverse Harvard member Susan Dynarski. Their brief states that Harvard’s expert Dr. David Card is one of the most outstanding and respected scholars in the field of econometrics and applied economics, that his statistical analyses in this case were methodologically sound, and that the plaintiff’s criticisms of Dr. Card’s modeling approach are not based on sound statistical principles or practices.
Representing prospective, current, and former students, the brief filed by Lawyers’ Committee and AAAJ asserts “ our elite institutions cannot be colorblind in a world full of color, nor may they be indifferent to a world full of difference. The constitution recognizes this need, permitting race-conscious admissions when certain requirements are met. Here, Harvard meets such requirements for narrow tailoring.”
The federal judge now must decide the summary judgment motions submitted by Harvard and by Edward Blum’s organization. If the judge denies both motions, as expected, the trial in the lawsuit is scheduled for October 15, 2018. The judge will also decide the requests of various organizations, including Diverse Harvard through our counsel NAACP Legal Defense Fund, to participate in the case.
Jane, Margaret, Jeannie, Kristin, and Michael
Jane Sujen Bock '81, Margaret M. Chin '84, Jeannie Park '83, Kristin R. Penner '89, & Michael Williams '81
Coalition for a Diverse Harvard Board of Directors