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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Diversity is skin deep at Harvard

Stanford discriminated against Jewish applicants in the early 1950's, admitted President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, who issued an apology last week.

Worried that more than a quarter of male applicants were Jewish, Rixford K. Snyder, who was admissions director, ended recruitment at heavily Jewish high schools and took other steps that sharply reduced Jewish admissions. Then, when people noticed, Stanford lied about it.

Now it's Asian Americans who are seeking admissions to elite universities. They have very high grades and test scores. Many come from working-class immigrant families and speak English as a second language. But are they diverse?

This month, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case charging that Harvard discriminates again Asian Americans in admissions, writes Renu Mukherjee, a Manhattan Institute policy analyst in City Journal. The court "will reexamine a half-century-old justification for race-based university admissions — namely, that racial diversity generates viewpoint diversity on campus and contributes to the lively exchange of ideas."

The diversity argument is weak, she writes.

Every year since 2013, usually during the first week of September, the Harvard Crimson publishes survey results profiling the incoming freshman class, including their political and social orientations. These feature-length reports have consistently shown that a dominant majority of Harvard’s incoming students identify as politically and socially progressive, with ever-fewer students identifying as conservative.
. . . Of the Class of 2025, for example, only 1.4 percent identify as very conservative; only 7.2 percent identify as somewhat conservative; and only 18.6 percent identify as moderate. By contrast, 72.4 percent of freshmen identify as predominantly liberal. Yet this class is the “the most diverse class in the history of Harvard,” according to William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid.

The Crimson didn't publish the survey results this year.

In Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, Lewis Powell argued that the use of race as a factor in college admissions would allow more diverse universities to achieve “a robust exchange of ideas,” writes Mukherjee. "Sandra Day O’Connor recapitulated Powell’s argument in her opinion for the Court in Grutter v. Bollinger, upholding the University of Michigan Law School’s policy of intentionally favoring applicants from certain racial groups."

But universities have become "less ideologically diverse and more intolerant of ideas challenging campus dogmas” argues an amicus brief supporting Students for Fair Admissions' challenge to Harvard and the University of North Carolina admissions policies. The Legal Insurrection Foundation cites a 2021 survey that found that more than 80 percent of students reported some amount of self-censorship, notes Mukherjee.

A Knight Foundation-Ipsos study found less than half of college students “said they were comfortable offering dissenting opinions to ideas shared by other students or the instructor in the classroom.”

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