Why is Harvard interested in race? The case of a committee to examine affirmative action and the fate of the Harvard admissions system, which it ultimately did not
The current Supreme Court has shown little interest in maneuvering to avoid disrupting longstanding civil rights, and Harvard and its elite peers have shown little interest in changing the status quo. There is thus every reason to believe that affirmative action for deserving students of color will end soon. Harvard will be in large part responsible for affirmative action being done for Whites if it goes through.
Gail Collins is a woman. Bret, I’m sure you will be shocked to hear that I’m totally against this kind of change. Universities consider all sorts of factors when they’re picking their next student body — it’s not as if everybody just takes a test and the top 10 percent get to talk to the admissions folks at Harvard.
The law says that a program can’t be narrowly tailored if it can achieve its goal in a race neutral way. Race can only be considered as a last resort. With the threat of litigation looming, Harvard convened a committee to examine race-neutral alternatives to its admissions practices. The committee’s work never got off the ground, and, after SFFA filed its lawsuit, disbanded. A second committee was convened by Harvard to look into whether it could achieve its diversity goals through race neutral means. The committee determined that it couldn’t.
Evan Mandery is a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the author of “Poison Ivy: How Elite Colleges Divide Us.” The views that he has are his own. Read more opinion on CNN.
Roberts noted that if race may no longer be taken into consideration, there may be an “incentive for the university to, in fact, truly pursue race-neutral alternatives.”
Sheryll Cashin, the Georgetown law professor who clerked for Marshall, wrote a book in 2014 called “Place Not Race,” which called for using the level of poverty in a school or neighborhood as a basis for affirmative action. The record in the Harvard case shows that 55 percent of Black and Latino students get in without any race-based boost. Most of the time, they are affluent. “I am very clear that the Constitution doesn’t require colorblindness,” she says. “I wrote my book because I was frustrated that affirmative action wasn’t doing enough for people who needed help the most.”
Harvard announced last year it would not require applicants with SAT or ACT scores to take tests for the next four years, but a new study shows the test-optional practices used by Harvard did not increase the number of low-income students.
Many, like squash and fencing, are effectively foreclosed to socioeconomically disadvantaged children because of their prohibitive costs. And this says nothing of the explicit preference given to the children of faculty, alumni, and donors, who are disproportionately affluent and White.
Indeed, the very construction of “affirmative” action – born in its current form during the Johnson administration to provide Black Americans with greater access to opportunity amid the passage of civil rights legislation intended to transform US society – implies that some students need a leg up to meet putatively objective qualifications –nearly all of which are tied to wealth. This refusal to acknowledge how wealth fuels false notions of objective merit obfuscates an agenda of preserving the status quo. This doesn’t say anything about the contribution that voices of color make in the classroom. If affirmative action ends, it will be nothing less than a tragedy.
The trial judge said no. Harvard would be more competitive in intercollegiate sports if tips were eliminated, but it would still be less competitive than if there were admissions policies that were more favorable to black students. The First Circuit Court of Appeals was in agreement. Athletes have shown their resilience, it said. It is being said that working kids who support their family haven’t.
Burroughs bought almost every aspect of Harvard’s argument. She said that eliminating preference for “legacies, applications on the dean’s and director’s interest lists, and children of faculty or staff” would “come at considerable costs, and would adversely affect Harvard’s ability to attract top quality staff and to achieve desired benefits from relationships with its alumni or other individuals who have made significant contributions to Harvard.” Yet Harvard offered no evidence in support of these claims and research has shown that legacy has no relationship to alumni generosity.
Takeaway Strategies for Respecting Race in North Carolina: A Preliminary Statement by Justice Christine Alito, Justice Clarence Thomas, and Justice Elena Kagan
During a marathon session lasting almost five hours, the justices heard from a total of five lawyers. Three people argued for Harvard and the University of North Carolina. Two others – both former clerks to Justice Clarence Thomas – argued for the conservative group Students for Fair Admissions behind the challenge.
“Suppose that a student is an immigrant from Africa and moves to a rural area in Western North Carolina where the population is overwhelmingly White,” Alito asked in a hypothetical. He wondered if instead of taking race into consideration it would be permissible for the student to write an essay about how he had to deal with “huge cultural differences.”
Patrick Strawbridge, representing Students for Fair Admission, said it would be permissible because the preference is “not being based upon race, but upon cultural experiences.”
The race is part of the culture and the culture is also part of the race, said Justice Elena Kagan, who was a liberal. She stated that it was slicing the baloney very thin.
“Grutter says this is dangerous and it has to have an end point,” Barrett stressed on Monday. She wondered if Grutter was “grossly optimistic” and that in reality, schools would never stop taking race into consideration. She noted that Grutter called race classifications “risky and potentially poisonous.”
Roberts highlighted that Grutter had promised 25 years when he said there would be an end point when society changed.
“Your position is that race matters because it’s necessary for diversity, which is necessary for the sort of education you want,” Roberts said. “You’re always going to have to look at race if you think that race matters to give us the necessary diversity.”
She declined and then Justice Brett Kavanaugh piled on. I understand why it is difficult, if you don’t have a number. but if you don’t have something measurable, it’s going to be very hard for this court,” he said.
Why is it that race is nothing different than other factors in the educational system? Answer from the Supreme Court to a conservative conservative critic of affirmative action
Two attorneys representing the challengers are both former clerks to a long-time critic of affirmative action, the Supreme Court’s own Clarence Thomas.
The Constitution does not tolerate classifications of race based on illegitimate motives, as well as being harmed by favored races, and every time the government puts citizens on a racial register, it makes race relevant to the provision of burdens or benefits.
His comments suggested that he had not changed his thinking. He went further than the other conservatives in questioning whether the goal of diversity is a compelling one for schools.
“I’ve heard the word ‘diversity’ quite a few times, and I don’t have a clue what it means,” he said Monday. It seems like it means everything to everyone.
She asked a question when the court considered Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. She made an appeal to her conservative colleagues who favor a judicial philosophy called “originalism.” The Constitution must be interpreted according to the meaning the founders intended. She said that the drafters of the 14th amendment understood race consciousness would be necessary to ensure the equality and freedom promised in that amendment, and that the Constitution rejected language that would have insisted on colorblind society.
She pressed Strawbridge if his group had the right to be in court because of race, and he said it didn’t have any legal injury to bring the challenge.
During the UNC arguments, she asked, “Why is it that race is doing nothing different than the other factors?” She said there are no points tallied and no set targets or quota.
“What I think you’re saying is that people have to mask their identities when they come into contact with the admissions office just on the basis of their difference,” she said.
Against Discrimination: Jackson, Kagan, and the State of the State, and Their Impact on Admissions in the U.S.
On Monday Jackson continued along the same lines of questioning. She said if there were any ambiguity in the history, the court should not overturn decades-old precedent.
Kagan said that he was passionate about why diversity is important. She told Strawbridge that it appeared his view was that “it just doesn’t matter if our institutions look like America.” She noted that if other areas of business or the military are not diverse, then leadership would not come from the schools.
I believed that our institutions are indicative of who we are as a group and that is part of what makes me believe in American pluralism.
JusticeSOira argued against his position using his own words. She said in the past that the way to stop discrimination was to speak openly and candidly about race, as well as apply the constitution with eyes open to the effects of centuries of discrimination.
“Our color blindness, whatever that means, because our society is not color blind in its effects – that comes as a high cost not only to UNC but to the states and to the nation as a whole,” she said.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that affirmative action programs can no longer be necessary, and conservatives used that as a reason to argue that race can be used as a factor in admissions.
Whites have either stayed the same or increased their admissions, in each of the nine states that have tried it. And clearly, the number of underrepresented groups in some institutions has gone down.