Nearly 100 marchers gathered Saturday in front of the John Harvard Statue to voice their opposition to last Thursday’s Supreme Court decision striking down race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina.
“Ho ho, hey hey! Students of color are here to stay!” the group chanted, their voices reverberating across the Yard.
The protesters, who included College and Summer School students, alumni, and parents, rallied to support diversity on college campuses across the nation. Sydney Wiredu ’26 led the procession from the Yard to the Science Center Plaza for a series of student speeches. Wiredu then guided everyone to Smith Campus Center for an open-mic session.
“Diversity rights are under attack and the affirmative action overturn is going to severely impact Black populations, student organizations, and all minority students on campus,” Wiredu said during the student speeches. “It was very important for me to come out here and defend our rights.”
Michelle Jean-Louis ’26 was one of several speakers, along with student organizers, alumni, and Eleanor Craig, the administrative and program director of the Committee of Ethnicity, Migration, Rights, at the Science Center. Jean-Louis shared her story of being undocumented and highlighted the importance of being visible in order to encourage other undocumented students to feel empowered to apply to higher education institutions.
“Without visibility, you live in fear and there is no progress,” Jean-Louis said. “I’m here for visibility, the visibility of the low-income, the undocumented, and of the dreamers, the students who dream of attending colleges like Harvard.”
Emotions remained high two days after the decision. Although Rebecca Zhang ’26 said she expected the court’s decision, she was nevertheless disheartened by it, a sentiment echoed by others.
“At the same time, I’m really hopeful that this decision will energize students to keep fighting for fair admissions and for other really closely intertwined issues like ethnic studies and student mental health,” said Zhang, an intern with the Coalition for a Diverse Harvard.
That was certainly the case for Agustín León-Sáenz ’25, who said he was enraged by the ruling but planned to keep organizing with fellow students. León-Sáenz shared a few words during the open-mic session.
“Participating in today’s rally was super important to me as a personal beneficiary of affirmative action,” the 19-year-old junior said. “I think of my little brother, who is 15 years old and in a few years will apply to college. My cousin back in Ecuador will be applying to college in the fall. This has immediate impacts to my family, to my friends, and to the U.S.”
Students were joined by several alumni, including recent graduate Amelia Cossentino ’23 and Gayle Lang ’89. Cossentino, the Ivy Orator at this year’s Class Day, stood in solidarity as she held up a poster featuring a drawing of fellow alum Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson ’92, J.D. ’96, emblazoned with the words “I dissent.” Jackson, who recused herself from the Harvard case because she served on the Board of Overseers, wrote a fiery dissent in the University of North Carolina ruling.
Lang, who was surrounded by her Harvard friends, said she came to campus in the hope that the same opportunities she was given to interact and grow with, learn from, and be enriched by people who were different to her would be afforded to future generations.
“I was an inner-city white kid who had really no economic opportunities. So, I see myself in all of these people who are fighting today,” she said. “Harvard let me in, as I used to say, but now I understand that they accepted me, and they appreciated who I was and what I would bring as an inner-city kid who really had never been exposed to anything like this before.”
Despite their apparent frustration over the decision, rally participants remained hopeful. Jean-Louis said she hoped participants and onlookers left the rally with a new perspective on the issues.
“The narrative [behind] affirmative action is often used to belittle the contributions of Black students and minority students,” she said. “It is this claim that we as Black students or minority students have only gotten here because of our race to fill a quota, but that is not the case.”
Zhang, meanwhile, said the students’ fight for diverse college campuses will continue. “I think we really need to show the Supreme Court and SFFA [Students for Fair Admissions] that we will not stop fighting just because of this ruling,” she said emphatically, referring to the anti-affirmative action organization that brought the lawsuit. “This case was not just about getting into Harvard; it’s about building a more equitable and diverse future, and that is something we’re going to continue fighting for.”
She added: “As an Asian American, I will say that I specifically refuse to be used as a racial wedge.”