Harvard president defends university after Supreme Court accepts admissions case: ‘race matters’

harvard affirmative action
  • Harvard University President Larry S. Bacow called the Supreme Court’s decision to review a case challenging the school’s use of race in the college admissions process a risk to “forty years of legal precedent.”
  • "As the Supreme Court has recognized many times, race matters in the United States,” Bacow said in a university-wide statement on Tuesday.
  • He added that “each of us” is more than “our grades” or “scores.”

Harvard University President Larry S. Bacow spoke out against the Supreme Court’s decision to review a case challenging the school’s use of race in the college admissions process, calling the move a risk to “forty years of legal precedent.”

“As the Supreme Court has recognized many times, race matters in the United States,” Bacow, former chancellor at MIT and president at Tufts, said in a university-wide statement on Tuesday.

Petitioners with Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), a Virginia-based group led by legal strategist Edward Blum, filed two lawsuits that allege Harvard and the University of North Carolina’s (UNC) use of race-based affirmative action in their admissions processes is discriminatory against Asian American applicants. 

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Citing six years of data at the university, the group argued that prospective Asian American students had the strongest academics but were admitted at the lowest rates compared to other students. 

Arguments in the case will reportedly be heard this fall.

“Those who challenge our admissions policies would ask us to rely upon a process far more mechanistic, a process far more reliant on simple assessments of objective criteria,” Bacow continued. He added that “each of us” is more than “our grades” or “scores.

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SFFA pushed for the court to repeal its 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld the University of Michigan’s law school admissions policy of considering applicants’ race in the interest of a diverse student body.

In response to the group’s petition, Harvard argued that the university’s admission process did not discriminate against Asian American applicants.

“The U.S. Solicitor General rightfully recognized that neither the district court’s factual findings, nor the court of appeals’ application of the Supreme Court’s precedents to those findings, warrants further review,” Bacow said on Monday following the court’s decision. “Harvard will continue to defend vigorously its admissions practices and to reiterate the unequivocal decisions of those two federal courts: Harvard does not discriminate; our practices are consistent with Supreme Court precedent; there is no persuasive, credible evidence warranting a different outcome.”

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Featured Image via Harvard University

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