The lawsuit against Harvard, alleging that the university discriminates on the basis of race, could have far-reaching consequences for admissions beyond just affirmative action, according to experts who convened at a panel hosted by the Asian American Cultural Center on Tuesday evening.
The panel, which featured University of Maryland professor Janelle Wong GRD ’01 and Christopher Lapinig ’07 LAW ’13, intended to shed light on common misperceptions regarding race-conscious admissions and the repercussions of a race-blind approach. The experts noted that if the Supreme Court ultimately ruled against Harvard, schools like Yale would likely be forced to become race-blind to ensure that they continue to receive public funding.
Wong, who called in via FaceTime into the event, contended that schools like Yale may not use test scores in admissions if the Supreme Court ruled against Harvard’s affirmative action policies. The case against Harvard, filed by the group Students for Fair Admissions, alleges that Harvard discriminates against Asian American students by requiring higher test scores than those of students from other backgrounds. Yale and other institutions of higher education may elect not to review test scores to avoid similar allegations of discrimination, Wong said.
University spokesman Tom Conroy did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday evening.
“The majority of Asian Americans continue to support … race-conscious admissions,” Wong said. “The only group that doesn’t support this is conservative Chinese Americans who have been really challenging affirmative action.”
But Harvard is not the only school facing pressure to reform its admissions practices. Last April, the Department of Justice picked up a complaint filed by the Asian American Coalition for Education, alleging that Yale discriminates against Asian American applicants in admissions.
Asian Americans represent 6 percent of the United States population but 20 percent of Yale’s student body, according to Wong. She argued that the incongruence in statistics exists because Asians do better than any other racial group in admissions.
Some have said that class-conscious admissions is a better alternative to race-conscious admissions. However, Wong said that this strategy mainly benefits white applicants, according to recent research studies. Lapinig echoed her remarks, saying that holistic admissions review requires the consideration of both race and class.
“To exclude race and base it on class misses the point of holistic admissions,” Lapinig said. “If people had the exact same background except for their race, a person of color would have something different to say … I am not making a value judgment, but race matters in our country and to construct communities that are intellectually rich.”
Administrators have stood behind Yale’s use of race in admissions. On Sept. 26, University President Peter Salovey wrote an email to the Yale community that “Yale does not discriminate in admissions against Asian Americans or any other racial or ethnic group.”
Lapinig contended that the future of affirmative action is “in more danger now than it has been in recent memory.” He said that the nomination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh ’87 LAW ’90 to the Supreme Court would likely shift the court to the right — away from a pro-affirmative action majority.
“I think the only thing that is certain if it is ruled unconstitutional, is it will create drastically different college campuses and impact other areas of society and [the] economy,” Lapinig said. “We will continue to see racial inequity widen in education and other societies too.”
Alissa Ji ’20, an organiser of the event, said the AACC created the event to clarify misinformation about affirmative action by inviting experts to discuss the policy.
The experts urged Yale students to reconsider their perceptions of race-conscious admissions. As the Department of Justice probes Yale, Wong suggested that Yale students share information about the misconceptions behind race-conscious admissions with their peers.
Wong noted that Harvard students held a rally on campus, supporting their school in the lawsuit, and drawing attention from the national media. Wong encouraged students at Yale to follow suit.
“Get ready,” Wong said. “It’s coming to Yale and you should write and say more about these policies using social media.”
The SFFA v. Harvard trial is set to conclude in a week.
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