GW joins elite universities to back Harvard in affirmative action lawsuit

Updated: Aug. 2, 2018 at 10:09 a.m.

GW is one of 16 institutions supporting Harvard University in a lawsuit criticizing the Ivy League school’s use of race in admissions decisions.

The institutions – including the remainder of the Ivy League and schools like Emory, Duke and Stanford universities – filed a 20-page friend-of-the-court brief Monday arguing that outlawing affirmative action would infringe on colleges’ academic freedom. The universities state that they “speak with one voice to emphasize the profound importance of a diverse student body for their educational missions.”

The schools extol race-conscious admissions practices – which they said provide the institutions with “the type of student body diversity that enriches students’ educational experiences” – rejecting a four-year-old lawsuit alleging Harvard uses the policies to discriminate against Asian-American applicants.

“Amici consider race and ethnicity as one factor among many in order to better understand each applicant and the contributions he or she might make to the university environment,” the brief states. “The plaintiffs here suggest that holistic review should be conducted without regard to race, but it is artificial to consider an applicant’s experiences and perspectives while turning a blind eye to race.”

University spokeswoman Lindsay Hamilton said officials decided to file the amicus brief to “show our support” for having a diverse student body.

“We believe that universities should have the freedom to pursue that diversity looking at each student individually, with a holistic view, under the standards set by Supreme Court precedents,” she said in an email.

Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit organization advocating for an end to affirmative action, filed the initial lawsuit against Harvard in 2014 claiming that the school used race-conscious admissions policies to “limit” the number of Asian Americans in its student body.

“Statistical evidence reveals that Harvard uses ‘holistic’ admissions to disguise the fact that it holds Asian Americans to a far higher standard than other students and essentially forces them to compete against each other for admission,” the lawsuit states.

Harvard has denied the allegations. The case is scheduled for trial in a Boston federal district court in October.

This post was updated to include comment from a University spokeswoman.

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