ACLU Files Brief Supporting Harvard University in Admissions Lawsuit

ACLU Joins Civil Rights Leaders, Students, and Universities Calling for Case’s Dismissal and Preservation of Colleges’ Right to Promote Diversity

August 30, 2018 9:45 am

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BOSTON — The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Massachusetts filed a friend-of-court brief supporting Harvard University’s right to consider race as one of many factors in a whole-person admissions process.

The case, Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, is led by anti-affirmative action crusader Edward Blum. Blum is once again seeking the elimination of all race-conscious admissions practices after failing to do so in Fisher v. University of Texas, where the Supreme Court reaffirmed that diversity is a “compelling governmental interest,” permitting schools to consider race. After the loss in Fisher, Blum lamented that he “needed Asian plaintiffs” — who indubitably face discrimination and stereotypes in society — in order to pit minorities against each other for political gain.

The ACLU argues a whole-person, race-conscious admissions process furthers a university’s academic freedom to assemble a diverse student body. SFFA’s proposed remedy to entirely remove consideration of race in admissions — including the context it provides into how other factors are measured — conflicts with the right of universities to select its student body. Should any admission practices unfairly disadvantage any group, the solution is to amend the practice but not to discard wholesale a diversity program that benefits all students.

“Considering race as one of many factors in order to create a diverse student-body is not only a worthy institutional goal of a university, it’s one protected by the Supreme Court. Students who learn from each other and are exposed to a variety of experiences, backgrounds, interests, and talents are better prepared for a pluralistic society,” said Dennis Parker, director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. “Refusing to recognize race or any other characteristic in admissions is inconsistent with the value of considering each person individually. Claiming not to see color simply recycles the tired myth of a post-racial America. If you cannot acknowledge someone’s race, you risk not acknowledging them.”

Groups exemplifying a diverse array of voices have supported Harvard with friend-of-court briefs. They include:

  • American Council on Education
    • The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE)
    • The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE)
    • The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN)
    • The American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO)
    • The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC)
    • The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU)
    • Association of University Professors (AAUP)
    • The American College Personnel Association (ACPA) College Student Educators International
    • The American Dental Education Association (ADEA)
    • The American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC)
    • The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
    • The Association of American Universities (AAU)
    • The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U)
    • The Association of American Law Schools (AALS)
    • The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)
    • The Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU)
    • The Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT)
    • The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB)
    • The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU)
    • The Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area (CUWMA)
    • The Council for Opportunity in Education (COE)
    • The Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of NEASC
    • The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS)
    • The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC); EDUCAUSE
    • The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC)
    • The Law School Admission Council (LSAC)
    • The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
    • The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)
    • The National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO)
    • The National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE)
    • The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU)
    • The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA)
    • Phi Beta Kappa
    • The Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA)
    • The WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Coalition for a Diverse Harvard
    • Harvard-Radcliffe Black Students Association
    • Kuumba Singers of Harvard College
    • Fuerza Latina of Harvard
    • Native Americans at Harvard College
    • Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Association
    • Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Women’s Association
    • Harvard Asian American Brotherhood
    • Harvard Vietnamese Association
    • Harvard-Radcliffe Chinese Students Association
    • Harvard Korean Association
    • Harvard Japan Society
    • Harvard South Asian Association
    • Harvard Islamic Society
    • Task Force on Asian and Pacific American Studies at Harvard College
    • Harvard Phillips Brooks House Association
    • Harvard Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students
    • Coalition for a Diverse Harvard
    • First Generation Harvard Alumni
    • Native American Alumni of Harvard University
    • Harvard University Muslim Alumni
    • Harvard Latino Alumni Alliance
  • Institutions of Higher Learning
    • Brown University
    • Case Western Reserve University
    • Columbia University
    • Cornell University
    • Dartmouth College
    • Duke University
    • Emory University
    • George Washington University
    • Johns Hopkins University
    • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    • Princeton University
    • Stanford University
    • University of Pennsylvania
    • Vanderbilt University
    • Washington University in St. Louis
    • Yale University
  • Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, Asian Americans Advancing Justice
  • Walter Dellinger, Douglas B. Maggs Professor Emeritus of Law at Duke University

The brief was filed in the District Court of Massachusetts.

The amicus brief is at:

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