On Point with Peter Wood

National Association of Scholars

On Wednesday, NAS President Peter Wood spoke to NPR’s On Point’s Meghna Chakrabarti about the case Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard.

Throughout the discussion, Dr. Wood upheld the principle that every American should obey federal laws prohibiting racial discrimination. Institutions receiving federal funds must abide by Title IV of the Civil Rights Act. Colleges and universities may not discriminate against any person “on the basis of race, color, or national origin.”

Since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that colleges may only use racial preferences in college admissions and faculty hiring under narrowly defined circumstances. In Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), the Court wrote that colleges and universities may only use race preferences in admissions “to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body.” But that compelling interest may be used only when “the means chosen ‘fit’ th[e] compelling goal so closely that there is little or no possibility that the motive for the classification was illegitimate racial prejudice or stereotype.”

Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) argues that Harvard has used illegitimate racial prejudice and stereotyping in its admissions policies, and discriminated illegally against Asian-Americans. Dr. Wood reaffirmed this statement, and cited the just-published testimony of Harvard’s own Director of Admissions, William R. Fitzsimmons. The substance of Fitzsimmons testimony confirmed in detail that Harvard practices racial discrimination. 

The National Association of Scholars has opposed the use of racial preferences in college admissions since its founding in 1988. NAS members wrote the text of California Proposition 209 (1996), which prohibited racial preferences for admissions to California’s public universities. Proposition 209 not only eliminated racial discrimination in California’s public higher education but also led to higher overall minority graduation rates throughout the public university system.

NAS expects that whichever party loses the case of Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard at the district level will appeal to a higher court. Yet the court of public opinion may now judge for itself about Harvard’s discriminatory policies by inspecting the thousands of incriminating documents SFFA’s lawsuit forced Harvard to produce. As Dr. Wood noted in his interview, the public has only to look at Harvard’s documentation and explanations of its own practices to understand that they are illegal, immoral, and indefensible.

Read NAS’s amicus brief in support of Students for Fair Admissions.

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