October 17, 2018

EDITORIAL: Clarifying Monday’s Editorial on Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard

Print More

On Monday, The Sun published an editorial titled “Stand with Harvard on Affirmative Action.” It concerned the ongoing lawsuit Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, which went to trial in Boston this week. The editorial reaffirmed The Sun’s long-standing support for affirmative action and positive race consideration in the college admissions process. It also expressed our worry that the outcome of this case will be the end of affirmative action and positive race consideration in all college admissions processes nationwide.

However, the editorial did not pay sufficient attention to the specific claims against Harvard included in the suit. The suit claims that Harvard systematically rated Asian-American applicants lower on “personal scores” — the least-defined of the five categories on which all applicants are scored. If that claim is true, then Harvard is most certainly in the wrong, and must correct what would be a flawed admissions process. Systematically downgrading a pool of applicants because of its racial composition is the polar opposite of positive race consideration.

If Harvard is engaging in discriminatory practices, those practices deserve to be exposed and corrected. But this particular lawsuit is not the proper vehicle to accomplish that goal, because at its core it has a far more insidious purpose.

The organization behind this lawsuit, Students for Fair Admissions, was formed for the express purpose of ending all affirmative action. Its founder, Edward Blum, believes no consideration should be given to anyone’s race in any aspect of their lives — a canard that cloaks itself in the appearance of equality while completely ignoring the incredibly destructive history of racial discrimination in America and its lasting effects today. In addition to his stated goals, Blum’s history (he previously led the lawsuit that gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965) clearly suggests he is acting opportunistically and in bad faith.

The previous editorial was in no way meant to adjudicate or discredit the claims of Asian-American Harvard applicants. The merited accusations against Harvard deserve to be addressed, but there are far less perilous ways to do so than a federal lawsuit. A 2013 internal study raised alarms about the issue, stating that “further details (especially around the personal rating) may provide further insight.” Harvard now claims the study was “incomplete, preliminary, and based on limited inputs.” To that we say the investigation should be reconstituted, finished properly and made public. And Harvard students, faculty and alumni alike should continue to hold their school accountable when it commits errors.

This particular lawsuit is not the answer to positive race consideration. Outlawing affirmative action would be deeply damaging to this country, and on that specific matter, The Sun stands with those institutions that seek to defend the practice.e