Jun 29, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Harvard responds to SCOTUS loss, vows to maintain diverse student body

Illustration of a sea of white mortarboards with one black hat.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that colleges can't explicitly consider applicants' race in admissions, Harvard leaders vowed to remain committed to diversity in admissions while complying with the ruling.

Why it matters: The new precedent will force Harvard and other colleges to reimagine long-standing hallmarks of the admissions process and likely jeopardize the representation of Black and Latino students on campuses nationwide, Axios' Erin Doherty and April Rubin write.

  • The justices ruled against Harvard and the University of North Carolina, both of which give a little extra weight to applicants from certain underrepresented groups.

What they're saying: In an internal email obtained by Axios, Harvard officials noted the ruling allows colleges to consider “an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.”

  • In the weeks ahead, they wrote, the school will "determine how to preserve, consistent with the Court's new precedent, our essential values."

In a public statement, Harvard officials acknowledged the news will change the way the school pursues "the educational benefits of diversity."

  • But Harvard President-elect Claudine Gay said in a video the university's commitment to diversity will remain steadfast.

Zoom in: In a joint statement, Massachusetts Democratic Gov. Maura Healey, top Democratic lawmakers, civil rights leaders and other state university officials vowed to "continue to break down barriers to higher education," in spite of the ruling.

Of note: Healey had already put an advisory panel in place to navigate equal access to higher ed for students of color.

  • Healey also made the MEFA Pathway college and career planning tool free for all current students in Massachusetts.

Axios' Andrew Solender contributed reporting.

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