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‘A Call to Action’: Four Takeaways from Harvard President Claudine Gay’s Inaugural Address
To the future Class of 2028: We don’t know you yet, but we’re excited for the chance to.
We imagine that you come from all walks of life. Your diverse experiences, interests, and perspectives will enrich our campus community with flavors and fervors we’ve never seen before. We can’t wait to meet you and learn from you (we’re selfishly crossing our fingers that you might deign to check out our Editorial Board).
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has failed you. With a few deliberate pen strokes, they have effectively struck down affirmative action. We have lost the procedural groundwork to create the kind of diverse campus from which we all benefit. And you, Harvard’s newest batch of applicants, have lost an important avenue with which to convey your unique lived experience in the already convoluted process of college applications.
But while the Supreme Court has failed, Harvard doesn’t have to. While dire, the ruling striking down affirmative action offers a small glimmer of hope, through a qualification in the decision confirming that universities may still consider “an applicant’s discussion of how race affected the applicant’s life.” As conservative as the Court may be, even they recognize that a color-blind view of America is not a reality.
The Court’s caveat seems to have informed recent changes to Harvard’s application, from new essay questions to new interview instructions. According to this year’s guidebook on interviewing Class of 2028 applicants, Harvard’s alumni interviewers may not consider race or ethnicity when evaluating applicants — although evaluations that show how applicants’ racial identities have shaped their interests are permissible.
These new interview guidelines — just like their surrounding college admissions process — likely induce stress and fear in prospective Harvard applicants, especially students of color. You may be questioning what parts of your identity are permissible for an interview, or frantically reorienting your plan to present yourself.
If you are doing any of the above: Stop. It’s not your job to edit your life into a squeaky clean narrative so that Harvard can dodge the hard problems of post-affirmative action admissions.
Be loud. Be proud. Be unabashedly open. Share your story, your life experiences, your sense of self. Say exactly what you would if you’d never heard of the new guidelines. Do not self-censor. Leave the legal logistics of what can and cannot make it into your final evaluation to the admissions office.
In an application process that is largely rote and depersonalized — where you collapse your being into essays and transcripts to shoot into the ether without knowing who, if anyone, is reading them on the other side — the interview is your best opportunity to be the fullest version of yourself, in front of a flesh-and-blood person who truly wants to hear from you. Harvard interviews the vast majority of its applicants. Take advantage of this chance.
In turn, we ask alumni interviewers to leverage the allowance made in both the Supreme Court’s ruling and Harvard’s interview guidelines. Let your applicants talk about race as it has impacted their lives, and note that down in your evaluations.
There is no sweeping solution when institutions conceived to protect justice have instead chipped away at it. From the legal perspective, determining how identity can factor into college admissions in our post-affirmative action world will be difficult. But from the perspective of those applying and being evaluated, race is an inextricable part of their lived experiences, as it is for our collective life at Harvard. We shouldn’t walk on eggshells around our identities.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.
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