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The Path Forward: Empowering Black Students at Harvard Post-Affirmative Action

From left to right: Clyve Lawrence '25, Kiersten B. Hash '25, and Jordan Young '25 speak on the steps overlooking the Winthrop House dining hall in a demonstration to dename the house.
From left to right: Clyve Lawrence '25, Kiersten B. Hash '25, and Jordan Young '25 speak on the steps overlooking the Winthrop House dining hall in a demonstration to dename the house. By Julian J. Giordano
By Clyve Lawrence, Crimson Opinion Writer
Clyve Lawrence ’25, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a Government concentrator in Adams House.​​​​

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court effectively ended race-conscious affirmative action policies in college admissions, leaving Black students at Harvard and beyond contemplating the future of campus diversity.

Regardless of one’s stance on the decision, diversity remains a vital, invaluable part of education. Therefore, in this inflective moment, Black students must take charge of their future, pursuing a racially diverse and more equitable campus.

So far, Harvard’s apparent lack of planning for a post-affirmative action era is concerning. The University has not provided a comprehensive or public plan to address the Supreme Court decision. While legal constraints may have contributed to this silence, it is still essential for the University to stand alongside its students and take proactive measures to preserve student diversity.

We need transparency and collaboration between the University and Black students to do that. However, the University is again silent here. It has been roughly six weeks since University administrators, including outgoing University President Lawrence S. Bacow and President-elect Claudine Gay, held an online listening session about the swatting incident on April 3. Harvard has failed to adequately safeguard the emotional and physical well-being of the Black community after this traumatic event.

These communication issues are disappointing and point to a broader issue: Beyond the immediate challenges presented by the Supreme Court’s decision, we need to acknowledge and confront Harvard’s historical and present ties to harmful systems, from slavery to policing.

While Harvard’s arguments about the educational benefits of diversity reflect admirable and vital goals, the University often seems to ignore affirmative action’s place in a broader effort to reconcile with its legacy of white supremacy. Initiatives to rectify this legacy require our unwavering support, such as denaming Winthrop House.

The traditional, haphazard way of doing things at Harvard won’t work. The University’s approach to admissions has garnered sharp criticism from both the right and the left.

For one, Harvard’s alleged treatment of Asian American applicants through mechanisms like personal ratings seems in some ways to have run afoul of the kind of holistic consideration of race previously approved by the Supreme Court.

Secondly, touting race-conscious admissions as an effective means of promoting the success of underrepresented groups, as Harvard did, relies on predominantly white institutions to uplift small numbers of minorities, perpetuating an inherently flawed system. This point is especially true in a college that continues legacy preferences, skewing admissions in favor of wealthy and white students.

In essence, Harvard has hidden behind existing practices because it has an interest in maintaining this system. For better or worse, the Supreme Court exposed it for doing so.

We should have taken more significant steps long ago. Yes, Harvard thrives when students of various backgrounds and identities come together and learn from each other. Unfortunately, our University — indeed, all elite institutions — reward the wealthy and those who can afford to pay over opportunity for all. That feature reinforces our system, with Black people often bearing the brunt of its consequences.

As an institution of higher learning — but also one that directly contributed to maintaining and defending systemic racism in the United States — Harvard bears the responsibility of fostering an inclusive, safe, and just environment for every member of its community. Its means may change, but the ends cannot.

A clear path forward exists — one that calls for collective action, resilience, and the understanding that our education system often prioritizes capitalist values over social values.

That responsibility includes us, too. After all, students shape the University’s mission. As Black students, we should build coalitions that challenge these flawed systems. Perhaps this means creating a Black Student Union in the spirit of Black campus organizations of the past. Today, we must continue their fight by supporting initiatives that address Harvard’s legacy of slavery and promote racial justice.

In the wake of yesterday’s decision, Black students must recognize that the end of race-conscious admissions as we know them does not mean the end of our striving toward racial justice, diversity, and support. Now it is even more imperative to make this pursuit a reality.

Clyve Lawrence ’25, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a Government concentrator in Adams House.

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