SCOTUS Strikes Down Affirmative Action In Colleges, Biden Admin, Harvard, UC, Vow To Be Inclusive
Photo: Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States
India-West News Desk
WASHINGTON, DC – In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court on June 29 declared race-based affirmative action in college enrollment unconstitutional. The court held affirmative action violative of the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection.
All six conservative justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, ruled to strike down affirmative action, while the three liberals ruled against it.
The court’s ruling came in a challenge to the race-based affirmative action by Harvard and the University of North Carolina. Both universities released statements on June 29 saying they will comply with the ruling. Harvard however noted the importance of diversity saying it was “essential to academic excellence.”
“The student must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual—not on the basis of race,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. “Many universities have for too long done just the opposite. And in doing so, they have concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.”
Roberts added that the court had previously “permitted race-based admissions only within the confines of narrow restrictions. University programs must comply with strict scrutiny, they may never use race as a stereotype or negative, and — at some point — they must end.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent note for the minority decision that the ruling “rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress. It holds that race can no longer be used in a limited way in college admissions to achieve such critical benefits. In so holding, the Court cements a superficial rule of colorblindness as a constitutional principle in an endemically segregated society,” she said.
But the court allowed colleges to consider race in discussions in the admission process — an applicant can bring up race in their essays and application forms as a factor in their life, as an impediment or an inspiration. Roberts wrote that “nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.”
While the ruling will end affirmative action based on race, universities would be able to switch to using socio-economic factors in the admission process, which could be based on the applicants’ family incomes or residential addresses.
President Joe Biden was swift in addressing it. “Although the Court’s decision threatens to move the country backwards, the Biden-Harris Administration will fight to preserve the hard-earned progress we have made to advance racial equity and civil rights,” the White House said.
Specifically, the President called on colleges and universities, when selecting among qualified applicants, to give serious consideration to the adversities students have overcome, including the financial means of a student or their family; where a student grew up and went to high school; and personal experiences of hardship or discrimination, including racial discrimination, that a student may have faced.
The University of California President Michael V. Drake, M.D., California State University Interim Chancellor Jolene Koester, and California Community Colleges Chancellor Sonya Christian were swift in their response, saying they were “disappointed” by the decision. “The benefits of campus diversity are clear,” they said, “It leads to higher quality education for all by reflecting a plurality of ideas and perspectives, and it results in increased community benefit when diverse graduates enter the workforce. Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging are core values at our institutions.”