Harvard Black Law Student Association’s Statement on Race-Conscious Admissions Policies
November 4, 2018
With the Harvard College/Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) trial’s conclusion drawing near, we stand at a critical crossroad—both as the Harvard Black Law Students Association, but also as Black people in the United States.
At the heart of this suit is a new manifestation of Fisher v. Texas, another vile anti-affirmative action lawsuit led by none other than Edward Blum—the conservative political activist who has consistently argued that race-conscious admissions are discriminatory. Blum lost Fisher at the Supreme Court. His objective, nonetheless, remains to kill affirmative action and to eliminate racial protections in all areas of life, such as when he supported Shelby County v. Holder—a 2013 case that functionally gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The Harvard Black Law Students Association stands by Harvard College’s holistic approach to admissions, especially the consideration of race. The Supreme Court articulated in Fisher that diversity in the student body “[enhances] classroom dialogue” and lessens the chance of “racial isolation and stereotypes.” Considering race in admissions ensures the possibility of a more tolerant student body—a student body that coalesces, instead of one that struggles to grapple with the different cultures, financial backgrounds, and upbringings within our society.
Stripping admissions counselors of the ability to take race into consideration would prevent them from establishing a fully realized picture of the applicant. Systemic economic, social, and political inequality impacts minorities of all racial, gender, and non-binary groups differently. From racialized standardized testing bias, and disciplinary protocols in high schools, to the infamous school-to-prison pipeline, we must accept the incontrovertible fact that race directly shapes the quality of students’ academic experiences. Understanding the myriad components of applicants’ backgrounds, including race, allows admissions officers to better grasp a candidate’s life experiences when making admissions decisions. Much like class, considering race is a key factor in holistic admissions.
Last, none of this compares to the deleterious impact a race-neutral policy will have on communities of color. These already-marginalized groups will be disproportionately affected (even more than they are now) by such a procedural shift. This race-neutral policy would further disenfranchise racial minorities, including members of our own community, which comprises a sizable population of prospective Black applicants who tend not to apply to institutions like Harvard in the first place. At present, only eight percent of Harvard College students identify as Black or African-American. Adopting race-neutral policies would decrease this depressingly low number.
The rise of the conservative right has bolstered the assault on affirmative action. Blum’s lawsuit, as well as the additional lawsuit against the Harvard Law Review, brings this issue directly to our front door. For the aforementioned reasons stated above, the Harvard Black Law Students Association wanted to reemphasize to each of you that we believe in the value of affirmative action and race-conscious admissions. As members of the Harvard community, we will continue to fight to ensure students of color have a fair chance to join Harvard and other institutions of higher education.
 See Id.