Yale, other schools file brief supporting diversity in college admissions

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Yale has joined 15 other universities and colleges in filing an amicus (friend of the court) brief in a case about the legality of Harvard University’s whole-person admissions process. Students for Fair Admissions sued Harvard in 2014, alleging the school’s undergraduate admissions practices violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The amicus brief was filed July 30 to support the argument that a diverse student body remains essential to the universities’ educational missions, that individualized, whole-person review of applications is necessary to achieve that diversity, and that race-blind admissions would preclude the schools from achieving the type of diversity that advances their educational missions.

The brief supporting Harvard emphasizes the profound importance of a diverse student body. The schools maintain that the diversity they seek in their admissions policies is nuanced and multifaceted, and it encompasses a diversity of perspectives, experiences, goals, backgrounds, races, ethnicities, and interests. These schools strive to enroll a diverse student body because in their substantial experience, they have found that doing so significantly deepens the students’ educational experience both inside and outside the classroom.

Because the schools are all residential institutions, they each strive to create a learning environment that fosters student interactions in residence and dining halls; in performance, artistic, athletic, and recreational spaces; in student organizations and activities; and throughout their campuses. According to the brief, a university may be the first place in which students are exposed to others whose experiences, opinions, faiths, and backgrounds differ substantially from their own. “Through that exposure, students are encouraged to question their own assumptions and biases and to appreciate the full texture of our society and the world,” the brief states.

This larger understanding prepares graduates of these institutions to pursue innovation in every field of discovery, to be active and engaged citizens equipped to wrestle with the great questions of the day, and to expand humanity’s learning and accomplishment,” the schools argue.

The plaintiffs in the Harvard case suggest that whole-person review should be conducted without regard to race, but the brief argues that a “race-blind” version of whole-person review would defeat the purpose of a truly individualized assessment for many applicants. The schools assert that “it is artificial to consider an applicant’s experiences and perspectives while turning a blind eye to race. For many applicants their race has influenced, and will continue to influence, their experiences and perspectives.” The schools say that no mechanical formula can capture the breadth of experiences, interests, and viewpoints that the schools seek in their applicants.

The brief asserts that a decision by the Court forbidding all consideration of race in the admissions process would compromise the schools’ efforts to attain diverse student bodies, and would be inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence, which has for decades upheld whole-person admissions policies. “In light of the momentous interests at stake,” the schools urge the court “to affirm the right of educational institutions to structure admissions programs that appropriately consider race and ethnicity within the context of an individualized and holistic review.”  

The other schools that joined in the amicus brief are 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, and Washington University in St. Louis.

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Media Contact

Karen N. Peart: karen.peart@yale.edu, 203-432-1326