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‘This Is What Diversity Looks Like’: Harvard Students Rally in Support of Affirmative Action After Supreme Court Ruling

Days after the Supreme Court effectively struck down affirmative action, protesters flooded Harvard Yard to rebuke the decision.
Days after the Supreme Court effectively struck down affirmative action, protesters flooded Harvard Yard to rebuke the decision. By Courtesy of Ekansh V. Tambe
By Samuel P. Goldston and Austin H. Wang, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard students and onlookers rallied in support of affirmative action Saturday afternoon following the Supreme Court’s decision severely restricting the consideration of race in higher education admissions.

Organized by the Coalition for a Diverse Harvard — a group of Harvard affiliates advocating for greater diversity, equity, and inclusion at the University — the protest sprawled across campus, with demonstrators marching in a loop from the John Harvard statue to the Science Center Plaza to the Smith Campus Center and back, stopping for chants and speeches by students and the public.

Many speakers focused on America’s racial disparities and the potential impact of restricting affirmative action on prospective students of color.

“Despite what the Supreme Court thinks, minority groups in America have and will always be at a disadvantage, regardless of their economic status,” said Sydney O. Wiredu ’26 in a speech at the Science Center Plaza.

“Students in inner city schools and low-income zip codes, who tend to be of a racial minority group, are now being sent a chilling message that they don’t belong at prestigious universities like Harvard,” he added.

Others, like Rebecca S. Zhang ’26, denounced the plaintiff in the case, Students for Fair Admissions, arguing that the organization “pits people of color against each other.”

“I will not remain silent as SFFA tries to use Asian Americans as a racial wedge or their model minority, because as an Asian American, I choose solidarity, not silence,” Zhang said during a speech.

SFFA President Edward J. Blum has characterized his lawsuits as “rescue missions for the colorblind legal principles that hold together Americans of all races and ethnicities.”

A demonstrator holds up a sign with the slogan #DefendDiversity in front of University Hall.
A demonstrator holds up a sign with the slogan #DefendDiversity in front of University Hall. By Courtesy of Ekansh V. Tambe

Members of the public, such as Jean-Claude Pierre Jr. and his family, joined the rally impromptu. Pierre later gave a speech about his experience as a Black parent whose daughter was accepted to Yale.

“I shared the news with everyone, and I’ll never forget, like it was yesterday, [to] one of my neighbors, I said, ‘Can you believe my daughter, Jasmine, she made it, she made it to Yale?’ You know what his response was? ‘Oh, because she’s Black,’” he told the crowd. “But guess what, ladies and gentlemen? In May 2020, she graduated magna cum laude.”

Other speeches targeted affirmative action’s opponents.

“My audience was, to be completely honest, people who sided with Students for Fair Admissions in the Supreme Court case, for people who specifically say that first-generation, low-income, Black and brown students steal spots from, for example, FGLI white students,” said Agustín J. León-Sáenz ’25 in an interview after speaking in front of the Smith Center.

In front of the Smith Center, a man heckled the demonstrators, interrupting speeches by loudly suggesting the students had been paid to protest. Demonstrators responded with loud boos, chants, and raised signs.

“Paid by who? I missed the fucking check!” quipped one pro-affirmative action protester in response.

In an interview at the rally, Hans Bach-Nguyen ’26 described the importance of seizing the opportunity to “show up and show out.”

“Right now is a really pivotal moment for Harvard students especially to demonstrate both unity and cross-racial solidarity — especially when there has been a setback in racial injustice on campus,” he said.

“I think that Harvard’s diversity has really changed and improved the way I see the world and think about different things,” he added. “Harvard’s diversity makes Harvard what it is.”

Correction: July 5, 2023

A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the Coalition for a Diverse Harvard as an alumni group. In fact, the group consists of alumni, students, staff, and faculty.

—Staff writer Samuel P. Goldston can be reached at samuel.goldston@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Austin H. Wang can be reached at austin.wang@thecrimson.com.

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