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Amherst College submits brief supporting race-conscious admissions in Supreme Court case

Students walk near the Widener Library at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Aug. 13, 2019.
Charles Krupa
Students walk near the Widener Library at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Aug. 13, 2019.

Amherst College filed an amicus curie, or "friend-of-the-court," brief on Tuesday with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting race-conscious admissions.

The college filed the brief in the Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. Harvard and SFFA v. University of North Carolina cases asking the Court to uphold over 40 years of precedent allowing colleges and universities to consider race as a factor in admissions.

Amherst is one of 32 other colleges and universities from across the country, including Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, Wellesley College and Williams College — all located in Massachusetts — supporting Harvard University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

The brief, submitted by Amherst College, explains how race is used as one component in what the college calls a "holistic consideration" of each application.

Matt McGann, dean of admission and financial aid at the college, said there has also been support from historically Black colleges and Catholic universities.

"Many parts of American society are seeing the ways in which an adverse ruling here would be worse for equity in this country and would be worse for many other dimensions of who we hope to be as a people," McGann said. "We as a society are really recognizing all of the benefits of diversity at a much larger scale. And so I'm glad to be one part of this."

A little more than half of Amherst College's most recent freshman class identified as domestic students of color with 17% identifying as Black, 18% Asian American, 17% Latinx, and 3% Native American.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in late October.

Nirvani Williams covers socioeconomic disparities for New England Public Media, joining the news team in June 2021 through Report for America.