Federal Court Upholds Harvard’s Race-Conscious Admissionsby Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law October 2, 2019
Judge also finds no proof of intentional discrimination against Asian American applicants
Boston, MA – Federal Judge Allison D. Burroughs’ issued a landmark ruling today in favor of Harvard University on all counts in Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. Harvard. Today’s decision should reassure public and private universities across the country that their limited and measured consideration of race to increase diversity, to acknowledge persistent racial segregation and inequities, and to see applicants as complex people is both valid and important today.
“Today’s ruling rightly recognizes that race-conscious admissions is both lawful and indispensable for ensuring institutions are open and available to students from all walks of life, including racial minorities,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Race-conscious admissions allows Harvard – and colleges across the country – to cultivate diverse campus environments that move our country forward: bridging racial divides and instilling greater cross-cultural understanding among a talented student body of future leaders. By upholding a policy that only views race in a positive light – never a negative one – today’s decision appropriately acknowledges that our institutions cannot be colorblind in a world full of color, nor may they be indifferent to a world full of difference.”
Clarke continued, “this case was mounted by activist Ed Blum who has waged an all-out assault on affirmative action efforts across the country for years. He has consistently been defeated in the courts. We will continue to fight against his efforts to tear down racial diversity on our nation’s campuses.”
“As an Asian American, affirmative action helped give me a fair shot in Harvard’s application process,” said Sally Chen, who testified in support of Harvard in the trial last fall. “The court made the right decision for Asian Americans, for diversity in education, and for all of the students like me who believe race is an important part of our identity and something we deserve to be able to share. The fight for racial equity is far from over. I will continue to fight for race-conscious policies on behalf of other Asian American students at Harvard and across other college campuses.”
“Affirmative action programs are necessary for resolving the persistent problems of privilege and isolation at Harvard and other universities across the country for students of color. Though essential, race-conscious admissions is not enough on its own to ensure fair access and opportunity — we must demand more,” said Sarah Cole, who also testified in support of Harvard in the trial last fall. “As a middle school teacher serving mostly students of color, I know that the fight for equitable access to higher education begins in preschool and continues throughout the K-12 system to ensure that all students of color and all low-income students are prepared to compete on equal footing with those born with racial and economic privilege.”
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law represents a racially diverse group of current and former Harvard students, many of whom are Asian American, who support race-conscious admissions. During the three-week trial in October, four of the students were able to testify and share their stories about how they benefited directly from Harvard’s race-conscious admissions process and why race matters in the admissions process.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is currently involved in virtually all of the pending cases involving challenges to race conscious admissions policies. The Lawyers’ Committee secured another victory in a separate but related case challenging the University of North Carolina’s race conscious admission’s efforts. A link for more information on that matter can be found here.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Now in its 56th year, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is continuing its quest to “Move America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights.
Stanley Augustin, Digital Media Manager at The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, press@LawyersCommittee.org, 202-498-8296.