The Supreme Court’s 6-2 decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and 6-3 decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. UNC-Chapel Hill affected college admissions nationwide by limiting the use of race-based affirmative action in decisions. It also incited responses from both schools, who understandably faced questions about how their admissions policies would change following the decision.
The contrast in responses between Harvard, an elite private university, and UNC, an elite public university, is intriguing.
Let’s start with Harvard. The university released a statement after the decision that read:
“Today, the Supreme Court delivered its decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College. The Court held that Harvard College’s admissions system does not comply with the principles of the equal protection clause embodied in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The Court also ruled that colleges and universities may consider in admissions decisions ‘an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.’ We will certainly comply with the Court’s decision.”
Harvard’s statement reads as if Harvard is intending to subvert the Supreme Court’s obvious prohibition on using race, “directly” or “indirectly,” in the admissions process.
The rest of its statement is even more defiant. Its president, Lawrence Bacow, writes: “diversity and difference are essential to academic excellence.”
But the “diversity” rationale was exactly the rationale that the court struck down as being inherently discriminatory. He writes: Harvard must be “a place where many will have the chance to live dreams their parents or grandparents could not have dreamed,” an especially defiant and ironic point considering Harvard has not eliminated legacy admissions, which excludes those who don’t come from “parent” and “grandparent” backgrounds with ties to Harvard.
Harvard wants to flout the Supreme Court, and you can feel it seething behind a politically correct and woke comms team. No reasonable observer should trust that Harvard is going to abide by the principle of non-discrimination in full.
Contrast Harvard’s response with that of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Its chancellor, Kevin Guskiewicz, spoke to The Washington Post, revealing that UNC would “follow the Supreme Court’s decision in all respects.” He clarified “that means race will not be a factor in admissions decisions at the University.”
In a statement released to the media the day of the decision, Guskiewicz gave the DEI ideologues at his university a bone by saying that the decision “was not the outcome we hoped for.” But he said in the same letter that he would “respect the Supreme Court’s decision and will follow its guidance.”
One word strikes me: “respect.” UNC showed real deference to the will of the people and of the people representing us. While Harvard used the word “comply,” as if being dragged like a whining child to his room, UNC struck a humbler tone.
On July 27, the UNC Board of Trustees formally enacted Guskiewicz’s vision by passing a resolution that would make race, ethnicity, sex and color “not a factor” in university admissions, including “through essays or other means.” The resolution is meant to conform the university with the true intents and purposes of the SCOTUS decision, rather than skirt it.
In fact, UNC Board Vice Chair John Preyer vocally expressed his displeasure with the amount of public funds to litigate a losing case: “for nine years, we’ve spent in the neighborhood of $35 million to lose a high-profile case. Why did we do that? Was that the right thing to do?”
After all, UNC knows that 75% of Americans do not believe race should play a factor in college admissions. And a publicly funded university like Chapel Hill is wise to (finally) respect that wish.
Yet UNC is also making the right call, one which will elevate its stature among American universities. In 10 years, after race preferences in admissions is seen for the pestilence that it so obviously is, UNC will look much better than Harvard coming out of this SCOTUS outcome.
The differences in responses are palpable. Harvard whines and tries to find every legal loophole it can to sneak past the decision, while UNC understands that essence of the decision prohibits discrimination against non-preferred groups, demonstrating obedience to the will of the people for meritocracy and American legal precedent.
Of course, UNC’s actions on this regard will matter a lot more than its words – and nationwide groups need to continue to monitor whether either university continues to lower standards merely to admit certain preferred groups or minorities. But they’ve demonstrated a refreshing humility on this decision to which colleges and universities would be wise to emulate.