Episode #44: After Action Report on SFFA v. Harvard with Dennis Saffran

Peter Wood

Just a few weeks ago, federal district judge Allison Burroughs issued a decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, ruling that Harvard was not guilty of racial discrimination and affirming the value of diversity in college admissions. Students for Fair Admissions had charged Harvard with discriminating against Asian applicants in order to achieve racial balancing.

NAS has watched this case closely, and we filed an amicus brief supporting Students for Fair Admissions, or SFFA.

Today’s podcast guest, Dennis Saffran, is the lawyer who drafted that brief for us. Dennis also holds the distinction of being the first-ever guest on Curriculum Vitae, last November, back before we even had the name Curriculum Vitae.

Dennis is an appellate attorney. He earned his JD from NYU Law School, and his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University.

Show Notes

0:00 Peter introduces Dennis and the case, Students for Fair Admissions vs. Harvard.

1:42 Peter and Dennis agreed the judge was likely to rule in favor of Harvard – so this isn’t a surprise.

5:41 Judge Burroughs cleared Harvard of wrongdoing in part because she said it meant well and intend to discriminate. Is there a “you meant well” loophole in diversity law?

11:46 Peter and Dennis discuss the origin of “holistic assessment” in the 1920s, when Harvard sought to limit the number of Jewish students.

14:59 Harvard claimed it considered race only as a positive attribute. Doesn’t that mean it’s a negative for everyone else?

22:40 what is the legal standard for judging whether a college is breaking the law by discriminating?

28:36 Dennis reviews the evidence of discrimination by Harvard.

38:04 Is diversity educationally beneficial?

46:03 where does this case go next?

Resources

Our first podcast on SFFA v. Harvard with Dennis Saffran

NAS’s amicus brief in SFFA v. Harvard

NAS reacts to the ruling in SFFA v. Harvard

Heather Mac Donald, “Harvard Admits Its Preferences,” The New Criterion, November 2019.

Ron Unz, “The Myth of American Meritocracy,” The American Conservative, November 28, 2012.

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