Harvard University panel doubtful about affirmative action’s future

, Spencer Irvine, Leave a comment

Call it irony, but Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education mentioned the impending Supreme Court decision about affirmative action. Harvard University and University of North Carolina are being sued by Asian-Americans for discriminating against them in the admissions process and the case is before the highest court in the country. The panel discussion took place during the graduate school’s 23rd forum on higher education.

The School of Education penned a write-up about the panel discussion, which took place at the university’s Gutman Library, and bragged that there were about 100 attendees in-person and “more than 400 on Zoom.”

The panelists were three Harvard employees, such as education senior lecturer Francesca Purcell, education professor Susan Dynarski, assistant professor of education Anthony Jack, and National Association for College Admission Counseling (which represents admission and counseling professionals) CEO Angel Perez. All three concurred that, because of the conservative make-up of the Supreme Court, affirmative action practices in admissions will likely be struck down. Also, some on the panel claimed that affirmative action’s elimination would limit the enrollment of minority students in higher education.

The panelists suggested universities should also look to eliminate legacy admissions, where children of alumni are given priority in admissions, because it is one of several “preferential systems” in college admissions, as Jack said.

Jack claimed, “I just don’t see this court exercising judicial restraint. I think that they’re going to try to gut a program that a lot of people have been trying to gut for a very long time.” He said, “They have their opening now and they’re going to run with it. They’re running with everything.” Jack also said that eliminating affirmative action would take out a way for minority students to enroll in higher education and noted that “athletes tend to be whiter and wealthier than the average population.”

Dynarski said that university admissions offices could replace race with income levels to make up for the loss of using race in admission. “The thing is that low-income [designation] does not correspond perfectly in any way to race and ethnicity in the United States,” she said, “You just run into a numbers problem. So unless we expand our elite schools extensively, it’s not like it’s going to change the numbers a lot.”

Perez acknowledged the privilege and elitism at Harvard when he said, “We are very privileged to be talking about this through the lens of the elite, the most highly selective colleges and universities… which by the way, is not how the majority of Americans experience higher education.” He added that higher education will adjust to the likely verdict, “We need to reinvent. And so I do think that this is an opportunity.”

It was apparent from Harvard’s summary of the panel event that higher education fails to recognize the pitfalls of affirmative action. Although proponents of affirmative action claim that it has worked wonders in higher education, it actually has terrible effects. For example, college dropout rates tend to be higher among underprepared minority students who may not be prepared for college-level courses, which has led some colleges to institute remedial courses to ease these students into college.

Also, the article failed to explain why Asian-Americans are suing Harvard University, which lawsuit alleges that they met Harvard’s admission standards yet were discriminated against because the admissions office purposefully rated them lower due to stereotyping and other race-related reasons.