Harvard is claiming that it needs to select preferentially for race in its admissions in order to achieve its student body diversity goals.
…it has tried alternatives to race-conscious affirmative action to diversify its undergraduate student body, but such efforts would harm both the diversity and academic strength of the class.
This is nonsense.
“Affirmative action” programs, giving preferential treatment as they do (however small the preference is claimed to be) to persons based on their race (and/or sex in most other such programs), are fundamentally racist. More broadly, when there are limited classroom seats (let’s say) discriminating in favor of one group—whether by race or by merit—necessarily discriminates against other groups: those not preferred.
Harvard’s claim that they need race-based affirmative action admissions is at best cynical. Were Harvard serious about improving diversity, they’d be moving to improve the quality of education in K-12 schools so that diversity would fall out of the merit of those graduates and not out of race-based selection. Harvard is silent on its actions in that milieu.