Summers: I Disagree with SCOTUS Race Preference Ruling, But Backdooring Preferences Will Make Schools Worse, Not Promote Justice
During an interview aired on Friday’s broadcast of Bloomberg’s “Wall Street Week,” Harvard Professor, Harvard President Emeritus, and former Harvard President Larry Summers stated that while he wishes the Supreme Court hadn’t struck down racial preferences in college admissions, he believes that if top schools try to backdoor racial preferences. “They will diminish the intellectual quality of their classes. And, in fact, they will have done very little to promote social justice.” Summers also stated that there isn’t any lasting fix to educational issues without improving the quality of public education and that top schools should focus on that in addition to making other changes.
Summers said, “I wish the Supreme Court hadn’t acted. I wish it had let the world continue on the path that it was, let private institutions make their choices about how they’re going to pursue fairness, as they see it. But, right now, there’s a critical choice that leading universities face. One option is that they can gerrymander the admissions criteria and change just exactly how they do it and encourage people to put certain sentences in their essays and do away with standardized tests that have a lot of information and fight to try to keep the exactly same percentages of racial groups where they are. That’s one approach. I think if they do that, they will be increasingly resented by the broad public. They will diminish the intellectual quality of their classes. And, in fact, they will have done very little to promote social justice.”
He continued, “The alternative path is that they step back and that they recognize that really the important test for them in this era is their overall contribution to opportunity in America. And if that’s what they want to maximize, it’ll be a very different path.”
Summers then laid out this path by stating, “No more legacy admissions, no more special admissions for people who’ve been coached extensively to be good at aristocratic sports, deciding to expand their class sizes so that more can benefit from what they bring, and not defining their greatness by just how exclusive they are, using the power of distance education for their education to be defined by more than what happens in the fall and spring semester on their campus, training teachers during the summer, training able students with computers, and crucially, crucially, turning their energy to strengthening what happens in our public schools across the country. Look, David, only about 1.5% of the students who score in the top ranges of the SAT are African American, until we fix that, [there’s] no durable solution to these problems. That needs to be a crucial part of the mission of our elite schools.”
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