Jenner & Block

Firm Files Amicus Brief on Behalf of 16 Universities

On July 30, 2018, Jenner & Block filed a widely covered amicus brief in a Massachusetts federal court on behalf of eight Ivy League schools and eight other universities in support of Harvard University’s race-conscious admissions process. The University faces a lawsuit claiming that Harvard’s practice of considering race in its application process discriminates against Asian-American applicants.

The amicus brief in support of Harvard argues that a ruling forbidding all consideration of race in the admissions process would compromise universities’ efforts to attain diverse student bodies.  “Educational institutions have the requisite expertise and the right to make the inherently academic judgments on how to set criteria for their student admissions and in particular, what kind, quality, or extent of diversity will best enhance the educational experience of students and allow those students to flourish,” the brief argues.  "It would be an extraordinary infringement on universities’ academic freedom to decree that institutions of higher education cannot consider race at all in seeking to obtain that diversity.”

The 16 universities supporting Harvard in the brief include Brown, Case Western Reserve, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Emory, George Washington University, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, Penn, Vanderbilt, Washington University in St. Louis and Yale University.  The brief states that the schools “speak with one voice to emphasize the profound importance of a diverse student body for their educational missions.”  The universities add that they have found that diversity “significantly deepens the students’ educational experience.”

The brief notes that it is unworkable for universities to engage in a holistic review of a candidate’s application while ignoring race: “The plaintiffs here suggest that holistic review should be conducted without regard to race, but it is artificial to consider an applicant’s experiences and perspectives while turning a blind eye to race.  For many applicants their race has influenced, and will continue to influence, their experiences and perspectives.”

Jenner & Block Partner Matthew S. Hellman submitted the brief on behalf of the universities.  Several media outlets reported on the amicus brief, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, and Law360.