The United States Supreme Court today issued a pair of long-awaited decisions in cases involving admissions programs at the University of Michigan. While the two decisions reach different results, their paramount significance for our community is that the Court’s pivotal opinion embraces the core principles that have long informed Harvard’s approach to admissions.
A majority of the Court, in the Grutter case, unequivocally recognizes the essential educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body. It recognizes that “the path to leadership” should be “visibly open to talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity.” And it confirms that universities are entitled to substantial deference on matters at the heart of their academic mission, such as the selection of their students.
Perhaps most important, the Court explicitly upholds the right of universities to pursue student diversity through carefully designed admissions programs that flexibly consider each applicant as an individual and that properly treat race as one among a broad array of factors that may be taken into account. As Justice Powell did in the Bakke case a quarter-century ago, Justice O’Connor cites Harvard College’s careful and flexible approach to admissions as a model – an approach in which “all factors that may contribute to student body diversity are meaningfully considered alongside race in admissions decisions.”
The affirmation of these principles is as heartening as it is important. We all share a vital stake in the education of citizens and leaders for a diverse society. I am pleased the Court has affirmed policies like ours that promote compelling educational interests in inclusiveness. We will continue to pursue those interests with energy and care, so we can provide our students with the best possible education and prepare them to contribute to society.
Note: The full text of the Supreme Court’s decisions can be found at http://www.supremecourtus.gov/