A Statement for Affirming the Importance of Diversity on Harvard’s Campus

October 14, 2018

The Undergraduate Council of Harvard College, led by the Asian American and Black Caucuses, write to voice our unequivocal defense of the importance of diversity on Harvard University’s campus.

We recognize that the current lawsuit concerning Harvard’s admissions policies directly involves and affects the lives of many of our community members and members of our campus will have various views about this. That being said, there is no question about the value of a diverse learning environment. The Undergraduate Council’s core values are democracy, inclusion, education, equity, and service, and affirmative action has everything to do with furthering those values.

The Supreme Court has unequivocally stated that a holistic admissions process includes the review of a candidate's multifaceted identity, which includes race as a component. Admissions processes should evaluate students as people, with all their complexities and nuances; we also recognize that race continues to be a defining factor of social and personal experiences in the U.S., and therefore cannot and should not be erased from consideration in admissions practices.

Banning the consideration of race from the admissions process is to attack what is central to Harvard’s mission, and to thereby prevent Harvard from pursuing the diversity necessary to ensure educational equity and fulfillment. At the core of a liberal arts education is diversity: in thought, in background, and in race. We stand by affirmative action as an avenue to provide an enriching educational experience for students of all backgrounds.

From the UC Asian American Caucus:

“We, as Asian-Americans, are not a monolithic body – we find strength in the diversity of backgrounds, cultures, and experiences that compose our community.  We refuse to allow Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) to tokenize Asian American voices in a mission to dismantle affirmative action, considering that the President of SFFA, Edward Blum’s, past experience as a litigator details a long history of work to eliminate race-based admissions policies in the US, the most prominent being the UT v. Fisher Supreme Court case (2013). Asian Americans are neither a political tool to divide communities of color, nor in favor of upholding those institutional privileges Blum seeks to perpetuate.

We also acknowledge that analysis of admissions documents displays the same systemic prejudices and racial stereotyping that afflict the image of the Asian American community; and we are troubled that the Harvard College Admissions Office has yet to include Asian Americans in programming cultural sensitivity training, and that there are no concerted efforts to change admissions policies to adequately reflect the myriad experiences contained within the Asian American community.

We push the Admissions Office to increase transparency within current admissions procedures, hire more diverse admissions counselors, hold their staff accountable for any potential biases, include diversity training regarding the Asian American community, and increase data disaggregation for sub-racial groups in recognition that our community is not a monolith.”

From the UC Black Caucus:

“We, as African Americans, hold that affirmative action is a necessary element of Harvard’s holistic admissions process that helps produce a diverse student body. A diverse student body is beneficial for all students, which the Supreme Court held in Grutter vs. Bollinger. In addition, as black students, our experiences in facing unique prejudice and bias inform the way we navigate life, and we bring those perspectives to Harvard classrooms, dorm rooms, and dining halls. These perspectives enrich the dynamic learning environment that we call Harvard.

In order to exemplify the need for affirmative action on a broader level, it is important to cite the history of black students’ exclusion from Harvard. It was not until 1868- 200 years after the university’s founding- that the first black student, Richard Greener, was allowed to enter and graduate from Harvard. Furthermore, it was not until the late 1960s that quotas restricting African American enrollment were lifted.  

Harvard’s history of mistreating underrepresented minorities forms the basis of our advocacy for the university’s continued race-conscious admissions practices. While Harvard should make its admissions criteria more transparent, Harvard’s admissions process has been cited repeatedly, most notably in the Regents of the University of California vs. Bakke, as being exemplary in creating a diverse student body.  

Overall, this isn’t just about Harvard’s admissions process. This case is about the community at Harvard and beyond. For a community to thrive, its members must be able to empathize with those from different backgrounds. For many of its students, Harvard provides the opportunity to do this for the first time. This opportunity not only helps foster understanding among members of the Harvard community, but it also enables us all to grow into the leaders of tomorrow.”

Together the UC stands, as individuals of innumerable unique experiences, from different cultural, socioeconomic, and ethnic backgrounds, and recognize that every one of us makes Harvard the place it is and the experience that it offers; each of us is an essential piece of this institution and its continued legacy. By doing so, we recognize that our diversity is by no means a weakness: it is our greatest strength.

In love and solidarity,

The Undergraduate Council of Harvard College