Yale has joined a legal effort to maintain the longstanding ability of colleges and universities to consider race and ethnicity as elements of a holistic review of applicants in the college admissions process.
In an amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on Aug. 1, Yale added its voice in two cases involving, respectively, Harvard and the University of North Carolina. The court is supposed to hear arguments in cases, Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. vs. President and Harvard College Scholars and Students for Fair Admissions, Inc., v. University of North Carolina et althis autumn.
Through these lawsuits, a group called Students for Fair Admissions seeks to eliminate consideration of race and ethnicity in college admissions. Universities’ amicus brief opposes lawsuits.
Yale joined more than a dozen other universities in filing the case, including Columbia, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Princeton and the University of Chicago.
“Today, Yale joined peer institutions in emphasizing that student diversity is critical to the missions of America’s universities and promotes educational excellence for all students,” said President Peter Salovey. “Our amicus curiae brief makes it clear that how we consider race and ethnicity in individualized consideration of applications is crucial to creating a richly diverse academic environment that enhances students’ educational experiences and maximizes their future success. Yale strongly supports the established right of universities to compose diverse incoming classes in many respects and in its commitment to enrolling students from all backgrounds.
The brief explains why diversity is important to the education of all students and how universities view race and ethnicity as part of the individualized applicant review process that the Supreme Court has endorsed in a series of decisions dating back to 1978. Bakke decision. The filing also underscores the traditional latitude courts have given universities in selecting their students — an act of educational judgment that involves academic freedom protected by the First Amendment.
“The diversity that friends [the schools filing the brief] research into their admissions processes is nuanced and multifaceted; it encompasses a myriad of perspectives, talents, experiences, goals, backgrounds, and interests,” the universities wrote. “friends strive to enroll a diverse student body because [they] have found that it greatly enhances the educational experience [they] can offer their students.
The brief went on to explain that diversity fosters a more robust spirit of free inquiry and encourages dialogue that sparks new ideas.
“Diversity encourages students to question their own assumptions, test received truths, and appreciate the complexity of the modern world,” the dissertation states. “Diversity prepares friendsgraduates to pursue innovation in all fields, to be active and engaged citizens, equipped to tackle the big issues of the day, and to expand the knowledge and achievement of humanity.
A trio of Supreme Court decisions over the past four decades — Regents of the Univ. of California against Bakke, Grumble against Bollingerand Fisher v. Univ. from texas — asserted the constitutionality of using race as an admissions factor.
In the Harvard case, a U.S. District Court judge ruled in 2019 that the school’s limited consideration of race was consistent with Supreme Court precedent. The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld that decision in 2020. Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. then appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to review the case, along with a similar case the group filed against UNC.
In their amicus brief, Yale and the other schools said that during their admissions processes, they obtain and review detailed information about the life experiences, accomplishments, talents, interests and goals of each candidate. This information includes the applicant’s socio-economic background, parental education level, whether languages other than English are spoken at home, educational experiences, military service, leadership skills, “and any other intangible characteristics that are essential in determining how an applicant will contribute to the university community”.
Using exclusively racially neutral admissions approaches, the brief argues, would undermine universities’ efforts to gain the “diversity benefits” they seek. Racial blindness in admissions would pose serious practical problems and unfairly harm students whose race is an integral part of their life experience as presented in their applications.
“Such a system would place those for whom race or ethnicity is particularly formative at a distinct disadvantage,” the brief explains. “Unlike candidates whose identity has been affected primarily by their socio-economic or geographic location, candidates whose formative experiences are tied to race or ethnicity would be denied the opportunity to express themselves fully and authentically when ‘they compete for admission to selective schools such as friends.”