Students Take to the Stand at the Harvard Affirmative Action Trial

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By SEGAN HELLE

 

Last Monday, October 29, eight Harvard students and alumni testified in support of Harvard at the University’s admissions trial in the hopes of providing perspectives on why diversity, and the admissions measures taken to achieve it, is important to those who have gone through Harvard’s campus. The current and former students who were called to testify were meant to reflect Asian-American, African-American, and Latino student experiences at Harvard and represent the over 100 minority student and alumni groups that have signed on to back Harvard’s legal defense.

 

Students were asked to share experiences about their lives leading up to Harvard, as well as their experiences living and learning at the University. Common themes were shared between different student testimonies including experiences facing racialized harassment throughout adolescence, the comfort and support provided by College cultural organizations, and the need for more diversity on campus to help minority students avoid feeling isolated or tokenized while navigating higher institutions.

 

No students testified on account of the organization who brought the lawsuit against Harvard, Students for Fair Admission (SFFA), citing fears that students who came out of anonymity and spoke out against Harvard  would face harassment or retaliation.

 

Student testimony was only allowed after a lengthy legal fight that ended on October 3 of this year. Attorneys for SFFA tried to block the University from bringing student and alumni experiences into the courtroom, claiming that their testimonies would be irrelevant since they are removed from the admissions process. U.S. District Court Judge Allison D. Burroughs, who has been presiding over the case sided with Harvard and the students and alumni who petitioned to be heard.

 

The lawsuit began in 2014 when right-wing activist Edward Blum and his organization, Students for Fair Admission (SFFA), charged Harvard with discriminating against Asian-Americans in their admissions process. The case finally went to trial on October 15 of this year. The trial is now viewed as not only a case against Harvard’s admission processes, but a case that challenges the legality of affirmative action policies at institutions of higher education across the country. A decision is projected to be delivered by Judge Burroughs this Friday.

Segan Helle ([email protected]) will provide updates as the court case unfolds.