The Supreme Court on Race in College Admissions – Opinion: Potomac Watch – WSJ Podcasts – The Wall Street Journal – DC Initiative on Racial Equity
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This transcript was prepared by a transcription service. This version may not be in its final form and may be updated.

Announcer: From the Opinion Pages of the Wall Street Journal, this is Potomac Watch.

Kyle Peterson: The Supreme Court takes a case on racial preferences in Harvard admissions as the Arizona Democratic Party censures Senator Kyrsten Sinema. Welcome, I’m Kyle Peterson with the Wall Street Journal. We’re joined today by my colleagues, editorial writer Jason Willick and columnist Kim Strassel. On Monday, the Supreme Court said it would take a pair of lawsuits brought by Students for Fair Admissions, a group that’s challenging racial preferences at both Harvard and also the University of North Carolina. And Jason, maybe Harvard is the place to start. Can you just give us a sketch of what do we know or least what is alleged about how its admissions process actually works?

Jason Willick: The Supreme Court’s affirmative action jurisprudence has been a mess to put it frankly. Bakke, Grutter, Fisher are some of the big cases. The case in question here is Grutter v. Bollinger, which basically okayed affirmative action in 2003 of racial preferences if it’s done in the interest of diversity. Harvard claims it’s abiding by this. It’s using race-neutral criteria, personality scores, and so on to achieve a racially diverse student body. The plaintiffs in the case who are Asian American student are saying that, “Give me a break. This is not racially neutral.” We all know that Asian applicants are getting discriminated against in this process in part because the personality score that Harvard gives applicants tends to say that Asian-Americans somehow have a lower personality score on this metric that they’re using. And so while Harvard isn’t explicitly using quotas, it’s clearly based on metrics like SAT and GPA and quantifiable metrics. Asian-Americans are not getting in at the rates that those metrics would predict. And they have some pretty good evidence from Harvard that Harvard is discriminating against Asian-Americans in its process.

Kyle Peterson: Just to underline that a little bit from the petition for certiorari, so Students for Fair Admissions has some analysis where it says that of students who apply, who are in the top academic decile or the top 10%. If 56.1% of them get in if they’re black applicants can paired with 31.3% of Hispanics, 15.3% of whites and 12.7% of Asians. And it also says, as Jason, explains that a lot of this seems to do with these personal ratings. Here’s a line from the application. It says, “Harvard has never offered a race-neutral explanation for this racial stratification on the personal rating.” By which it means that Asian applicants mysteriously get these lower personal rating preferences by Harvard when they’re going through the admissions process. And so, Kim, the question here is the Supreme Court has allowed race to be a plus factor in admissions, but this looks like one heck of a plus factor.

Kimberley Strassel: Yeah, this is essentially Harvard doing whatever it wants and therefore, technically not abiding by Supreme Court precedent. Although, look, I think to Harvard’s defense that Supreme Court president is a complete mess. On the one hand we have the Supreme Court, it says you may not have any quotas. Meaning, you’re not supposed to say you’re going to have this many number of whites and this many number of Asian-Americans and this many number of blacks. But it has this squishy plus factor that came up in Grutter v. Bollinger. And no one understands what that means. And what is clearly demonstrated here through the Harvard and the UNC applicati


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