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Civil Rights groups file brief for race conscious admissions at Harvard

Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard Challenges the College’s Race-Conscious Holistic Admissions Policy

8/2/2018, 6 a.m.
The national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Boston-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, Asian ...

The national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Boston-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ), and pro bono counsel, Arnold Porter, filed an amicus curiae, “friend of the court,” brief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts to support the defendant’s motion for summary judgement in the lawsuit challenging Harvard’s race-conscious holistic admissions policy (Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. Harvard).

The coalition is participating as special “amicus plus” status and represents a cohort of racially diverse applicants, current students, and alumni at Harvard College including African American, Latino, Native American, and Asian American students.

“Forty years of precedent affirms the constitutionality of a university’s limited use of race in college admissions,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Harvard’s holistic, individualized consideration of race addresses the pervasive inequalities that persist across our society. Any efforts to reverse this approach is a threat to colleges and universities nationwide.”

“The consideration of race is an important aspect of a university's holistic review process and is essential in building a dynamic learning environment,” said Nicole Ochi, supervising attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles. Despite what Edward Blum and Students for Fair Admissions claim, Asian Americans benefit from race-conscious holistic review; in fact, the majority of Asian Americans support affirmative action policies. Asian Americans Advancing Justice will not stand for our communities being used as a cover to end affirmative action, which would have devastating effects on all communities of color -- including Asian Americans.”

“Arnold Porter is pleased to be working with our clients and other groups who encourage programs to ensure diverse student populations in universities,” said Lawrence Culleen, partner at Arnold Porter. “Such programs are especially important in our nation’s most selective institutions. We are proud to stand with our clients and collaborate with our colleagues in the legal community to defend these principles.”

“These students stand together because they – and many of their white peers – know the need for meaningful representation of all communities of color in a place as powerful as Harvard,” said Matt Cregor, education project director at the Boston-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice. “If these future leaders graduate with a better sense of who we are together, then I have greater hope for who we can be as a country.”

The students’ brief will address three issues:

The students affirm that ethno-racial diversity produces distinct benefits which are educational, personal, and professional;

Students explain how Harvard’s current affirmative consideration of race complies with the parameters set forth by the Supreme Court: it is individualized, flexibly appreciates all forms of diversity, and does not treat race as a predominant factor, and Students affirm that Harvard’s vested interest in promoting greater representation of, and diversity within, students of color compels the continued consideration of race.

In 2014, the anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions orchestrated the lawsuit against Harvard, claiming its race-conscious admissions policy intentionally discriminated against Asian Americans and violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

The amicus filing follows a recent move by the U.S. Department of Education to rescind the guidance documents that explain the parameters of affirmative action in higher education, and action by the U.S. Department of Justice involving race-conscious admissions policies in the higher education context, including

investigations into the diversity efforts of Harvard College, among others.