A FIGHT FOR DIVERSITY AT HARVARD
As you may know from an email earlier this week from President Faust, race-conscious and holistic admissions at Harvard and in higher education at large are under threat from a lawsuit brought by Edward Blum under the guise of "Students for Fair Admissions” (SFFA). As part of our mission to fight for diversity, equity and inclusion, the Coalition for a Diverse Harvard decries Blum's ultimate goal of banning any consideration of race in admissions and his divisive tactics. We write to help you be as informed as possible and to encourage you to share information with others. We anticipate a flood of communication and spin in the coming days, and to help you evaluate it, we want to highlight:
Who is behind the lawsuit and their ultimate motives
Our belief that inclusive, holistic admissions practices are crucial to achieving the multi-dimensional diversity that is key to Harvard’s educational mission
The importance of viewing data and other evidence critically once both sides are heard.
Who Is Behind the Lawsuit Against Harvard?
As you know, the Coalition for a Diverse Harvard was founded in 2016 to oppose five Overseer petition candidates (four of whom had written or testified extensively against affirmative action) and in favor of race-conscious and holistic admissions practices that support campus diversity. Together, we defeated the petition slate, whose leader had ties to anti-immigrant, racist, and anti-gay writers and groups, but the 2014 lawsuit brought by Blum, a long-time foe of efforts to promote access and diversity in American life, has proceeded. Critical evidence is about to be released in that case.
Blum, who has a network of conservative backers, has led challenges that dramatically weakened the Voting Rights Act’s protections for racial minorities. He previously sued the University of Texas at Austin on behalf of a white plaintiff in an attempt to end its consideration of race as one factor in its efforts to admit a diverse student body. Because the Supreme Court ruled against him twice in the Texas case, Blum was forced to switch tactics. In his continuing attempt to eliminate diversity initiatives in higher education, Blum, like the Overseer petition candidates, decided to allege discrimination against Asian Americans, saying that they are "systematically" excluded in favor of less qualified Black and Latinx applicants. The goal of these lawsuits, he said in an April 2015 speech in Houston:
“. . . is to eliminate the use of race or ethnicity in applying. So, I needed plaintiffs. I needed Asian plaintiffs.”
In short, he acknowledged that he is using Asian Americans as a means to achieve what he failed to achieve in the Texas litigation. Indeed, the founders of SFFA include Blum, Abigail Fisher, the losing plaintiff in the Texas case, and her father. 18 Million Rising, an Asian American advocacy group, put it this way:
Source: 18 Million Rising
The Harvard Admissions Process
Inclusive, holistic admissions allows consideration of the ways that explicit racism and implicit bias may be affecting all admissions criteria (from standardized testing to GPA to interviews to extracurriculars). Test scores are not equivalent to “merit” and do not accurately predict academic success in college or other contributions to college life or performance after college. While Harvard could fill the entire College with students who have perfect SAT scores or GPAs, it instead considers a host of other factors in assembling a class of academically qualified students that is diverse in a multitude of ways. Those factors include difficulty of courseload, high-school profile, teacher and counselor recommendations, extracurriculars, awards, athletics, intended major, intended career, awards, essays, socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, work experience, life experience, character, geographic area, legacy, relation to Harvard faculty and staff, and interviews.
We eagerly await tomorrow’s release of admission data in the Harvard lawsuit and evidence that will emerge in the trial that is scheduled to begin in October. Please remain skeptical of “SFFA” characterizations of the data and statistics that are presented by “SFFA” proponents. Research indicates that charts and comparisons (such as to Caltech and the University of California) that have been presented for years are misleading.
Admissions Data Review
In the meantime, the Steering Committee has analyzed publicly available data and information, which we summarize below.
First off, it is really, really difficult for anyone to get into Harvard these days. The admission rate has plummeted from around 20% for the Class of 1980 to 4.59% for the Class of 2022.
Second, the available evidence would seem to contradict claims that a ceiling or quota exists for Asian Americans. For the Class of 2022 and the previous 20 entering classes, the percentage of admitted students who were Asian American varied between 14.3 and 22.7 percent. (These figures exclude international students.) The percentages fluctuated from year to year, with an overall upward trend.
Looking at the percentage of the admitted classes who were Latinx, African American, or Native American or Hawaiian, one sees fluctuations as well, with an overall increase. Over the past decade, the percentage of Asian-American admitted students has grown by 29%–from 17.6% to 22.7% (twice the growth rate of Latinx admitted students, e.g.).
Taking a look at a characteristic other than race, one can see the percentage of women admitted has also varied during the past two decades.
Further information on the lawsuit, including court filings, is included in the attachment to President Faust’s email. We will share more information once evidence is released. In the meantime, let us know if you are willing to write an op-ed. Or simply tell us at how diversity at Harvard benefited you in college and beyond (or how the lack of diversity was a problem).
Jane, Margaret, Jeannie, Kristin, and Michael
Jane Sujen Bock '81, Margaret M. Chin '84, Jeannie Park '83, Kristin R. Penner '89, & Michael Williams '81
Steering Committee of the Coalition for a Diverse Harvard
Please forward this email to your friends.
And find our “Coalition for a Diverse Harvard” Facebook Group.
Harvard lawsuit is not what it seems | Jeff Yang ‘89 | CNN
The Top 3 Things You Should Know About Asian Americans and Affirmative Action | Asian Americans Advancing Justice Asians are being used to make the case against affirmative action. Again. | Vox