This November, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in two cases that will determine whether colleges and universities can continue to use race as a factor in admissions decisions. Swarthmore College has joined 32 peer institutions in filing an amicus brief, initiated by Amherst College, in support of the practice, arguing that including race as part of a holistic review of an individual’s application is critical to schools’ ability to recruit diverse student bodies and fulfill their missions.
“Studies consistently show that diversity — including racial diversity — meaningfully improves learning experiences, complex thinking, and non-cognitive abilities,” the brief, which was filed last week, states [PDF]. “Diversity also generates pedagogical innovations and decreases prejudice. These benefits are especially pronounced at liberal arts colleges and small universities, where smaller class sizes lead to greater engagement among diverse students.”
The cases — Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina — claim that the schools discriminated against applicants on the basis of their race.
In the brief, Swarthmore and its peers argue that race cannot be excluded entirely from admissions considerations if they are to enroll the diverse classes critical to their educational mission.
“Swarthmore remains committed to the holistic review of each application,” says Vice President and Dean of Admissions Jim Bock ‘90. “Understanding a student's full background and experience informs our decisions as we seek to admit and shape a diverse class of students from all over the country and the world.”
“As part of their preparation to contribute to a better world, students must engage with people from different backgrounds and experiences and with different perspectives,” says President Valerie Smith. “If we lose the ability to recruit a diverse student body, we will do all of our students a disservice."