AAC&U Joins 39 Higher Education Organizations in Support of Harvard University and the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill in Supreme Court Cases
Amicus Brief Makes the Case for the Ongoing Value of the Consideration of Race and Ethnicity as Part of a Holistic Admissions Process.
The American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) announced today that it has joined together with 39 other higher education associations to support Harvard University and the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill in their defense of the use of race and ethnicity in college admissions before the US Supreme Court. AAC&U signed a brief of amici curiae prepared by the American Council on Education and submitted August 1, 2022, to the Court.
In joining the brief, AAC&U affirms its longstanding commitments to advancing engagement with diversity as an essential component of educational excellence and to the fundamental principle of academic freedom, which underpins individual institutions’ pursuit of their distinctive educational missions and goals.
The brief argues that excluding race and ethnicity from consideration in the college admissions process “would chill student expression and deprive a subset of applicants of the full benefits of holistic review: those for whom racial or ethnic identity plays a role in their life experiences, leadership skills, or potential campus contributions.” As a result, “students of color would face the unenviable choice of declining to speak of their ethnicity or race or speaking and being ignored. Yet, students discussing socio-economic status, gender, age, disability, or experiences as veterans, musicians, or first-generation learners, all could speak freely.”
Also at stake in the cases is the principle of academic freedom, which enables individual colleges and universities to pursue their educational missions and goals. The brief notes that “the First Amendment affords colleges and universities substantial deference on matters involving academic judgment and, as a result, safeguards the role of America’s colleges and universities as incubators for creative thought, productive dialogue, and innovative discovery. It is the pluralism of institutions across the country that makes our system of higher education the greatest in the world. Academic freedom necessarily encompasses decisions about who to enroll at any given institution.”
The brief notes further that longstanding Court precedent recognizes “institutions’ freedom to design holistic admissions policies that further their own educational missions and the experiences and outcomes they seek for their students. Judicial deference to colleges’ and universities’ admissions programs preserves the diverse range of missions that these institutions pursue. Institutions craft their own educational environments and goals, including religion-, service-, and military-based objectives. To meet these goals, colleges and universities require leeway to assess which applicants will enable them to create distinct learning environments and select their student body accordingly.”
“AAC&U is proud to be a signatory to this brief supporting Harvard and UNC in their cases before the Supreme Court,” said AAC&U President Lynn Pasquerella. “The brief contributes a compelling statement of educational principles that are fundamental to American higher education and that have long guided AAC&U’s own work, and it clearly explains what’s at stake in the cases for our students, our institutions, and our democracy.”
The brief was filed by the American Council on Education and is available online.