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ADL’s SCOTUS Brief: Harvard’s Discriminatory Admissions Policies OK Because College Meant Well

ADL’s SCOTUS Brief: Harvard’s Discriminatory Admissions Policies OK Because College Meant Well

ADL sees, hears, and speaks no evil against Harvard’s anti-Asian discrimination because (a) the school won’t openly admit it’s discriminating, and (b) the discrimination is favored by the woke ADL.

There’s a saying about good intentions, which the Anti-Defamation League evidently hasn’t heard.

ADL filed an amicus brief in the upcoming Supreme Court case, Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, supporting the college’s discriminatory practices against the petitioning Asian students. ADL rationalized the college’s behavior on the thin grounds that it’s really discriminating for Black people, rather than against Asians (and, it must be recognized, against most Jews) Even though that’s a distinction without a difference to applicants seeking coveted spots in a limited pool, for the ADL it’s enough of a hook on which to hang its proverbial hat.

You can find our previous case coverage and a link to our own brief here:


[Click on image to see document.]

In LIF’s own amicus brief filed in the same case, we explained the fallacy of the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision temporarily allowing racially discriminatory admissions. Not only don’t they foster the viewpoint diversity that’s the supposed justification for discrimination. They actually do the opposite. Anyone paying attention to the atmosphere on today’s campus has noticed how intolerant it is to both students and professors who don’t conform to groupthink. Dissenting academics face career death comparable to the worst of the McCarthy era, most especially if they dissent from anything touching upon “discrimination”, “equity”, and “inclusion”.

Jews have been a particular target (on the thinly-veiled pretext that they are “Zionist”). University staff charged with promoting diversity have not just failed to prevent discrimination against and exclusion of Jews; they have actively fostered it, as a Heritage Foundation report documented.

Despite rising campus anti-Semitism – which the ADL has belatedly noticed – the organization is reverting to its leader Jonathan Greenblatt’s instinctive left-wing politics. That is, it’s junking its mission to fight against anti-Semitism and “to secure justice and fair treatment to all” in favor of supporting a woke outlook that is unfair as well as anti-Semitic in practice, whether or not it is in intent. Like woke prosecutors who refuse faithfully to execute laws with which they disagree, Greenblatt’s ADL refuses faithfully to carry out its mission of protecting the Jewish people and securing fair treatment to all when it conflicts with priorities higher on the woke agenda. We’ve covered Greenblatt’s dereliction of duty before:

[Click on image to see document.]

Instead, ADL has found a “good intentions” exception to its own mission. Its brief contends that Harvard’s

lack of racial animus, intent to discriminate, or imposition of quotas, as well as the fact that Harvard’s admissions practices today promote (rather than inhibit) diversity, all distinguish those practices from Harvard’s admissions practices in the 1920s and 1930s, which were motivated by antisemitism, imposed a quota on Jews, and were explicitly designed to decrease Jewish enrollment.

In other words, those racist admissions people meant well.

DAs who refused to prosecute budding or actual career criminals, or even to ask that they be kept in jail, certainly mean well too, but that’s beside the point.

ADL’s brief recycles the standard claims of the university and its supporters extolling the purported benefits of its supposedly unintentional discrimination:

In short, ADL’s experience demonstrates that exposure to a diverse academic community not only reduces prejudice, but also improves education, better prepares students for possible graduate education and career opportunities, and enhances the United States’ ability to compete in a globalized economy. Embracing diversity and promoting a just and inclusive society are crucial not only to the struggle to defeat discrimination, but also to the continued vitality of our nation.

ADL accordingly agrees with the District Court’s conclusion that, as the evidence at trial credited by the First Circuit overwhelmingly demonstrated, “a heterogeneous student body promotes a more robust academic environment with a greater depth and breadth of learning, encourages learning outside the classroom, and creates a richer sense of community.”

Really? Is that what we have today? A more robust academic environment with greater depth and breadth of learning? Isn’t it rapidly becoming the opposite? An environment that would have been familiar to people who survived the Cultural Revolution, where students learn little except political indoctrination, platitudes, and protest?

Eventually, ADL gets to the meat of its argument, which is that because Harvard doesn’t admit to discriminating against Asians and because the lower court was willfully blind to its anti-Asian manipulations, Harvard should be allowed to continue discriminating. In doing so, ADL ignores the similarity between Harvard’s past tactics and its current ones:

In 1922, in the face of rising national antisemitism and questions about the increasing number of Jews at Harvard, at President Lowell’s direction, Harvard began to evaluate whether to revise its admissions policies… Lowell “came to the conclusion that Harvard had a Jewish problem” and was “convinced that the only way to reduce anti-Semitism within the Harvard community, as within the nation, was to limit the number of Jews allowed to associate with Gentiles.” … While the proposed quota ultimately was voted down in the face of public backlash, the faculty resolved to form a special committee “to consider principles and methods for more effectively sifting candidates for admission,” which was understood to be coded language for “consider[ing] the question of the Jews.” …

[In 1926,] Harvard added precisely such a subjective component to its admissions criteria, directing that “the rules for the admission of candidates be amended to lay greater emphasis on selection based on character and fitness and the promise of greater usefulness in the future as a result of a Harvard education.” JA1107. While Lowell “insisted that he was not proposing discrimination against the Jews but rather ‘discrimination against individuals in accordance with the probable value of a college education to themselves, to the University, and the community,’” he noted in correspondence with the chairman of a faculty committee relating to the university’s adoption of more subjective admissions policies that “a very large proportion of the less desirable… are at the present Jews,” which prompted agreement from the chair of the committee that “such a discrimination would inevitably eliminate most of the Jewish element that was making trouble.” Karabel, supra, at 107-08 (emphases added).

Third, Harvard made the top-seventh rule “discretionary” in order to “make it possible to eliminate schools that sent too many Jews to Harvard.” Id. at 108. Finally, Lowell installed individuals on the Admissions Committee who “shared his views” regarding Jews at Harvard, including appointing a leader of an anti-immigration group in addition to the four pre-existing members of the committee who had voted in favor of installing formal quotas in 1922. See id. at 109. Thus, “[b]y the mid 1920s, Harvard had yielded to a selective system of admissions, which, with no apologies, aimed at reducing the percentage of Jews in the college.” …

Here, in contrast, the evidence adduced at trial about Harvard’s current admissions practices in no way resembles the evidence of Harvard’s odious practices in the 1920s and 1930s. The District Court expressly found that “[t]hroughout the trial and after a careful review of all exhibits and written submissions, there is no evidence of any racial animus whatsoever or intentional discrimination on the part of Harvard beyond its use of a race conscious admissions policy.” Students for Fair Admissions, 397 F. Supp. 3d at 201-02. After a thorough evaluation of the record, the First Circuit agreed, finding that “[t]he district court did not clearly err in finding that Harvard did not intentionally discriminate against Asian Americans,” and crediting, among other things, the District Court’s finding that “[t]he testimony of the admissions officers that there was no discrimination against Asian American applicants with respect to the admissions process as a whole and the personal ratings in particular, was consistent, unambiguous, and convincing.” Students for Fair Admissions, 980 F.3d at 203, 197.

(bolded emphasis added). ADL admits that Harvard’s then-president, Abbott Lawrence Lowell, adopted these techniques only after the faculty voted against an explicit anti-Jewish quota. The evidence ADL presents of open discriminatory intent was assembled long after the fact. At the time, President Lowell adopted the above methods as a subterfuge, to conceal his goal of limiting Jewish admissions.

ADL ignores the fact that, in the name of finding individuals and communities who would supposedly benefit more from a college education – more or less the same rationale Lowell cited in recruiting more non-Jews a hundred years ago – today Harvard uses the very same technique it employed against Jewish students last century. In particular, it assigns a very subjective personal rating in evaluating each applicant’s character. Asian Americans are consistently scored lowest, Whites the next-lowest, and Blacks and Hispanics highest on the personal rating. Surprise! The method has the effect of limiting Asian enrollment today.

Because Lowell was initially open about wanting to set quotas on Jews, and because back then discrimination was legal, it was possible for historians investigating admissions policies to establish Harvard’s discriminatory intent after the fact. That’s harder today, when open discrimination is illegal and universities make more of an effort to hide their tracks. The moral here seems to be that as long as Harvard doesn’t say out loud that it’s discriminating against Asians, ADL can safely deny the obvious. It can pretend to have distinguished Harvard’s actions with respect to Asians from its actions with respect to Jews.

Here’s what the ADL should have said in its brief:

  1. We oppose any discrimination, because discrimination is wrong.
  2. A hundred years ago, Harvard discriminated against Jews because they weren’t “White”. Now, Harvard discriminates against most Jews because they are “White”. As a champion of Jews victimized by discrimination, and a champion of fair treatment for all, the ADL opposes discrimination in any guise under any rationale.
  3. Today’s legally rationalized racial discrimination has become fatally entwined with rank anti-Semitism, and Jews won’t be safe, comfortable, or welcome on campus until that poisonous ideology and the “diversity” industry that feeds it are defeated.

Yes, I know – I’m not holding my breath either.


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So much for the hashtag #StopAsianHate

    dunce1239 in reply to natdj. | August 8, 2022 at 7:00 pm

    Screw them, most of them are communist plants anyway. How many Asians in congress are republicans????

Vicki Hearne (_Bandit_) identifies skepticism as a male failing, and foolishness (“he seemed to mean well”) as the corresponding female failing.

Think of voting for Obama.

Oho! The tried-and-true CanklesBacca Defense!

Neither the ends justify the means nor our motives are good in breaking some eggs to get the omelet seem overly persuasive. Let’s hope SCOTUS has enough courage to end these sorts of overtly racist policies.

    Gosport in reply to CommoChief. | August 8, 2022 at 12:58 am

    The best way to end racial discrimination is to end racial discrimination.

    Not create favored races and un-favored ones.

It is long past time for SCOTUS to put a nail in the coffin of the vile Dumb-o-crats’ utterly corrosive, immoral and indefensible conceit that there allegedly is such a thing as benign and laudable racial discrimination.

No (proof of) hate, no foul? Intent to discriminate is okay because it’s (allegedly) not for the wrong reasons?

I would call this sophistry except it would be an insult to the sophists.

The not so fine line separating affirmative action and affirmative discrimination.

That said, Diversity (i.e. color judgment, class-based bigotry), Inequity, and Exclusion (DIE) is a dogmatic principle held and policy practiced under the Pro-Choice ethical religion.

If it’s OK to discriminate “for” rather than “against”, then expect a spate of employers, landlords, and businesses to start discriminating “for white people”.

It’s nice that people are finally starting to notice that “reverse discrimination” is still discrimination, but after a half-century of affirmative action, the damage has been done and I don’t see any remedy. It was mentioned at the time by a few (and, I’m sure, noticed by more than a few) that the bureaucrats who were responsible for virtually ALL of the discrepancies during the past election shared one obvious physical characteristic. And it is an undeniable fact that those who share that same characteristic now dominate every bureaucracy, local, state, and national – which might not be so critical, if it weren’t for the fact that they also in general share the same attitude (I could almost say hatred) toward the majority of the country.

A new organization, the Jewish Leadership Project, has just been formed to challenge the lack of support by the establishment Jewish organizations for the Jewish community. They charge that the Jewish establishment is failing to protect the community. In particular, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Jewish Federations and the networks of Jewish Community Relations Councils (JCRCs) are ideologically conflicted. Their loyalty is to the woke progressive organizations, not to the Jewish community.

This is just the latest example of the ADL siding with an organization whose policies are in opposition to the best interest of the Jewish community.

JackinSilverSpring | August 8, 2022 at 8:25 am

I have said this before, but it’s worth saying again: The ADL’s initials stand for “Association of DemoncRat Leftists.” It’s current stand on this issue makes a mockery of its original name: Anti Discrimination League.

Thank God I don’t work for Fried Frank anymore. Whew!

From my perspective, this case revolves around the theory that some discrimination is better than other forms of discrimination.

Ranking candidates for admission or hiring or renting/buying a home returns society to the “good old” days of Jim Crow, segregated schools, and redlining.

No matter how well-intentioned, discrimination is ethically, morally, and legally wrong. To paraphrase MLK Jr., it is not the color of your skin but the character that matters.

Indeed the road to perdition is paved with intentions touted as good but are, in fact, evil.

Discriminatory Admissions Policies OK Because College Meant Well
That’s not how this works. It’s not how any of this works….

Steven Brizel | August 8, 2022 at 9:08 am

ADL has walked away from defending the interests of the Jewish community and is a woke organization

Now I’m starting to wonder if Harvard would discriminate against me if I applied as a 77 year old white male?? Anybody at Harvard want to challenge me based on age or race??

If race is an admission requirement, it only follows that it would a requirement to graduate.

If ability or proficiency is a requirement for graduation, perhaps an aptitude for such should be a requirement for admission.

The fact that the ADL is encouraging discrimination against Jewish students isn’t surprising. The ADL hasn’t represented actual Jewish interests since the 1970s. It was bad enough under Abe Foxman but their current director literally worked for Obama and has moved the organization even farther left. Most ADL staffers wouldn’t know authentic Jewish beliefs and values if they bit them on the tuchas.