The Supreme Court recently made a landmark ruling on the constitutionality of affirmative action in higher education admissions. On June 29, the court decided, in two separate cases, that the use of race in admissions decisions by colleges and universities is unlawful and violates the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment. The lawsuits were filed by Students for Fair Admissions against Harvard College and the University of North Carolina, alleging racially and ethnically discriminatory policies in their admissions programs.
The court’s conservative majority prevailed in both cases, with a 6-2 decision against Harvard and a 6-3 decision against the University of North Carolina. Notably, Justice Ketanji Brown recused herself from the Harvard case due to her previous affiliation with the Harvard University Board of Overseers.
This ruling overturns 45 years of law that allowed institutions of higher education to consider race in their admissions processes. However, the implications of the decision are still being debated, as the law now needs to be observed and enforced. To ensure compliance with the new ruling, the conservative advocacy group America First Legal (AFL) has taken swift action. Led by Stephen Miller, former senior advisor to President Donald Trump, AFL sent letters to the deans of 200 law schools demanding adherence to the new law or face possible lawsuits.
The AFL letter to Harvard Law School Dean John Manning specifically calls for the termination of all forms of race, national origin, and sex preferences in student admissions, faculty hiring, and law review membership. Miller warns that any attempt to develop a new admissions scheme to achieve discriminatory outcomes would be a violation of the Supreme Court ruling and could lead to legal repercussions.
This ruling is a significant victory for Edward Blum, the president of Students for Fair Admissions, who has been fighting against affirmative action in college admissions for the past 20 years. Blum’s inspiration came from the 2003 Supreme Court case, Grutter v. Bollinger, in which the court ruled that the University of Michigan Law School’s use of race-conscious admissions was lawful. Celebrating the recent Supreme Court decision, Blum believes it marks the restoration of the colorblind legal covenant that unites the diverse population of the United States.
In response to the ruling, Harvard University’s president, Lawrence Bacow, and other university leaders issued a public letter stating their commitment to complying with the court’s decision. They emphasized the importance of diversity in fostering meaningful teaching, learning, and research.
Kevin Guskiewicz, chancellor of the University of North Carolina, also acknowledged the Supreme Court’s decision and pledged to follow its guidance. He acknowledged that the ruling may raise questions about UNC’s future and its fulfillment of its mission and values, but expressed confidence in the university’s ability to navigate these challenges.
As higher education institutions grapple with the implications of this ruling, it remains to be seen how they will adjust their admissions processes to comply with the law. The debate around affirmative action and its role in promoting diversity and equal opportunity in higher education is likely to continue, with supporters and opponents closely monitoring developments in the wake of this Supreme Court decision.