Monday, July 12, 2021

Our Best Chance to Make HARVARD Do the Right Thing

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Our Best Chance to Make HARVARD Do the Right Thing

   The federal court case Students for Fair Admissions vs. President and Fellows of Harvard College (“SFFA v. Harvard”) has been making its way through the federal court system for almost 7 years now.   The case is spearheaded by SFFA and led by Ed Blum, a very successful and renowned litigant on the matter of race-based affirmative action.  It has finally reached the steps of the Supreme Court. The case was originally thought to be on track to be heard by the Supreme Court by next spring, but the court has recently asked the Biden Administration, via its Solicitor General, to file a brief, laying out its arguments.  That brief is expected to be filed sometime this fall, but it could be filed as late as early 2022, which may mean that the Supreme Court will not hear the case until mid-to-late 2022.  See SFFA v. Harvard; see also SFFA website

SFFA v. Harvard is ultimately a case about fairness.  Asian American applicants to the Ivy League have faced a de facto quota for decades, and it is about time that the Supreme Court strike down this deeply unfair practice.  Despite a dramatic increase in the number of Asian Americans as a proportion of the overall American population, and a concomitant increase in the number of Asian American applicants over the past 30-plus years, the proportion of admitted Asian American applicants at Harvard (and other Ivy League schools) had remained relatively stagnant, at a range of ~15% to ~17% of the overall admitted class, until SFFA v. Harvard was filed in 2014.  From 2014 until this year, the proportion of admitted Asian American applicants to Harvard has risen incrementally each year.  This year (2021, admitting for the Class of 2025), AsAms constituted approximately ~25% of the incoming class.  That incremental rise can probably be attributed to the immense pressure placed on Harvard by virtue of the ongoing federal court case of SFFA v. Harvard, which has been well-publicized.  

But we are NOT finished yet.  The lower courts, at the trial court and recently at the Circuit Court of Appeals, have ruled against SFFA (and for Harvard), deciding that Harvard’s de facto discrimination based on race is NOT a violation of federal law.  SFFA is hopeful that the Supreme Court will see fit to review the case, and that they will ultimately rule against Harvard.  

Harvard will NOT go quietly on this issue, and that is largely because Harvard, along with the rest of the Ivy League, has a long and deeply ingrained interest, built on centuries of momentum, to maintain the "good ol' boy" network, which, since the time of America's patrician Founding Fathers, has been overwhelmingly White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.  

It would be ineffective to simply try to "shame" the Ivy League leadership into the notion that they need to live up to a meritocratic ideal, so that they can in turn better reflect the American value of meritocracy. There is no such compulsion, within the soul of the Ivy League, because what they have been doing for centuries is to maintain the momentum of the privileged elite "blue-bloods", into each new decade. In turn, when they do this, they keep the elite satisfied, so that they continue to support their alma mater, and the cycle becomes a very mutually beneficial one, maintaining each Ivy League university's status and prestige.  

That’s why it is so important for us to all press on and support SFFA in its ongoing battle with Harvard.  Long considered the leader of the Ivy League, as its oldest university, if Harvard is legally forced to act fairly with respect to Asian American admissions, the rest of the Ivy League will have to follow.  

Let’s all do our best to support SFFA, and hope for their success.  They are doing battle on our Asian American community’s behalf, and their success in this case will lay the foundations for our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to have equal access to America’s most elite colleges.  Our Union will then be well on its way to becoming more perfect, as our Forefathers envisioned.

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Stephen P. Lin (writing a guest column)
Special Assistant to the President,
80-20 Educational Foundation, Inc, a 501 C-3 organization,