Affirmative Action Must Also Be Defended Out of Court

Office of Admissions and Financial Aid
Harvard’s Office of Admissions and Financial Aid lies on Brattle Street.

The lawsuit lodged by the group Students for Fair Admissions against the University — challenging Harvard’s holistic, race-conscious admissions policies — has huge potential ramifications for affirmative action nationwide.

If the case makes it to the Supreme Court, affirmative action would face an existential threat, especially if Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination is confirmed. Recognizing the potential of the case to undo affirmative action, the Department of Justice accused Harvard of racial discrimination in a court filing that paves the way for the federal government to sue and perhaps join the lawsuit.

In the face of these challenges, we reaffirm our vigorous support for affirmative action. It is foundational in building a diverse community, to the benefit of all parties, and develops a multicultural, meaningful experience for all members of the Harvard community. Thus, as it fights the lawsuit, the University should do its utmost in the trials to portray affirmative action in a positive light, and show how it makes campus a better place. Alumni networks and other universities could be valuable resources in this effort.

Nevertheless, in the face of this dire threat to the existence of affirmative action, Harvard must do more to defend it publicly.


From protecting immigrants who have temporary protected status to fighting for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and against the endowment tax, Harvard has been a leader among institutions of higher education in advocacy at the national level. University President Lawrence S. Bacow has thus far continued this tradition by promising to defend the values of higher education and condemning the new proposed Environmental Protection Agency rule that would make scientific data public.

Affirmative action is an issue of vital importance to Harvard — more so than most of the issues Harvard faces or has faced in the past. It directly affects how the University admits students, thereby affecting the student body and the composition of the University itself. As a result, Harvard has even more of an obligation to take any course of action necessary to defend it.

Perhaps one of the most effective ways to do this would be to take affirmative action to the court of public opinion. We urge the University to warn the public of the dangers of losing affirmative action, and to publicize its defense. Members of the administration should, for instance, write more op-eds, give more speeches, and appear at more public events specifically to espouse the benefits of affirmative action for not just Harvard, but the entire nation.

Regardless of one’s race, grade point average, SAT score, socioeconomic status, or any other single factor, no one is entitled to a spot at Harvard. The process is holistic for a reason — it would not benefit anyone to admit a class of very similar people. We’re all lucky — not entitled — to be here. Affirmative action has brought opportunities to those who would have otherwise never received them. Harvard must make a more public effort to protect it.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.