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Harvard: Letter to the Community from President Lawrence S. Bacow as Admissions Lawsuit trial begins

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

As I am sure many of you are aware, the University is being challenged in a lawsuit that alleges discrimination in Harvard College’s admissions policy. The case will go to trial next week, and I write today to share some thoughts with you.

Let me be unequivocal: The College’s admissions process does not discriminate against anybody. I am confident the evidence presented at trial will establish that fact. The Supreme Court has twice ruled on this issue and has held up our admissions process as an exemplar of how, in seeking to achieve a diverse student body, race may enter the process as one factor among many in consideration.

During the trial, the plaintiff is likely to make provocative assertions that will receive public attention and cause some to question our admissions practices. I want all of you to know that each Harvard College student is admitted affirmatively. Each student brings something special to our community and contributes to our rich learning environment in a way that is unique. Harvard would be a dull place—and not likely achieve the educational aspirations we have for our students—if we shared the same backgrounds, interests, experiences, and expectations for ourselves.

At the same time, this lawsuit has the potential to create divisions on our campus and in our broader alumni community. Reasonable people may have different views, and I respect the diversity of opinion that this case may generate. I would hope all of us recognize, however, that we are members of one community—and will continue to be so long after this trial is in the rearview mirror. What kind of community we will be, however, will be determined by how we treat each other over the next few weeks. As I said in my inaugural address, we must be quick to understand and slow to judge. I hope we will approach one another with mutual respect and consider all points of view, not just during the trial but also beyond it.

Every day on our campus provides countless opportunities to learn—both from the vast intellectual resources at our disposal and from those we encounter who make this community special. We have and will continue to embrace and celebrate diversity in every possible dimension.

All the best,


Lawrence S. Bacow
President Harvard University