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AAUP Supports Affirmative Action

The AAUP joined with the American Council on Education and thirty-five other higher education associations in filing an amicus brief in federal court this week opposing a challenge to race-based admissions at Harvard University. We argue that “a diverse student body is essential to educational objectives of colleges and universities, and that each institution should be able to exercise its academic judgment to determine within broad limits the diversity that will advance its own particular mission.”

The case, Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. Harvard, asks the court to prevent Harvard and other colleges and universities from using race as part of their admission criteria for students. The plaintiff is an organization created by anti-affirmative action activist Edward Blum. It alleges that Harvard’s admissions process holds Asian-American applicants to a higher standard and argues that Harvard engages in “racial balancing” when it could use race-neutral alternatives.

For many years, the AAUP has taken a leadership role in affirmative action debates by emphasizing the educational value of diversity.  In 2016, we joined in an amicus brief in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (another case initiated by Blum) that argued that consideration of race in the admissions process is appropriate and advanced the AAUP’s long-standing view that diversity is essential not only for students but for the entire academic enterprise. The Supreme Court affirmed the use of race in admissions in that case.

As early as 1978, we filed an amicus brief in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke to protect the primacy of the faculty role in developing educationally appropriate admissions criteria. In 1997, the Association's annual meeting expressed “its continuing concern over the reduction or elimination of affirmative action programs that have important educational benefits for all students.”

The case is scheduled to begin in mid-October.

Publication Date: 
Wednesday, August 1, 2018