This Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear the first oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas, a case that could restrict or eliminate a school’s right to pursue race-based affirmative action. In anticipation of the hearing, Yale Law School Dean Robert Post LAW ’77 and Harvard Law School Dean Martha L. Minow LAW ’79 have written a joint opinion piece in the Washington Post arguing that restricting educational institutions from considering race in the admissions process would be a “tragedy” and “disservice to our law schools and the legal profession.”
When considering the best students, Post and Minow write that they are looking for both “character” and “a commitment to use the advantages of one’s education to give back to society.” Both of these qualities often can be gauged in an applicant’s life circumstances and how well he or she has responded to such challenges, a factor that they say is influenced in large part by race.
“We need to select a class in which students have different perspectives, diverse aspirations and complementary strengths,” they wrote. “Law students learn not only from faculty and books but also from each other… Race is sometimes an important and relevant factor in group discussions both inside and outside of the classroom.”
Post and Minow also argue that forbidding race considerations in the admissions process would be difficult. A significant component of law school applications are essays and personal recommendation letters, many of which mention or explicitly discuss how race has affected an applicant’s life. Minow and Post ask — somewhat cheekily — whether advocates of ‘race-blind admissions’ would also mandate censoring such statements.
Thirty-two percent of the Class of 2015 at Yale Law School identify as students of color, while 39 percent of the Class of 2015 at Harvard Law School do so, according to each school’s online admission statistics.