On June 29, 2023, the United States Supreme Court ruled with a 6-3 majority in favor of striking down the longstanding precedent of affirmative action in college admissions.
Affirmative action refers to the practice of considering factors such as race during the college admission process in an effort to address historical inequalities and promote diversity. Its purpose is to provide opportunities to individuals from marginalized and underrepresented groups who have encountered systemic barriers to educational advancement.
The proceedings revolved around two significant cases that emerged in November 2014, where Students for Fair Admissions accused both Harvard University and University of North Carolina of engaging in discriminatory practices during their admission processes, thereby prompting an examination of the constitutionality of race-conscious policies and their compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
While the Supreme Court’s ruling will undoubtedly significantly impact admission policies, the ruling continues to allow for colleges and universities to consider race albeit within specific limitations and requirements.
In the opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts stated, “Nothing prohibits universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected the applicant’s life, so long as that discussion is concretely tied to a quality of character or unique ability that the particular applicant can contribute to the university.”
The decision maintained an exception for U.S. military service academies, allowing them to continue considering race as a factor during their admissions process.
Proponents of the Supreme Court’s ruling argued that the decision promoted a merit-based approach in college admissions emphasizing equal treatment that is based solely on individual academic achievements, qualifications, and abilities.
Former President Donald Trump said in a statement, “This is a great day for America…we’re going back to all merit-based and that’s the way it should be.”
Critics of the ruling have expressed their concerns in regards to removing affirmative action policies and its potential impact on diversity, inclusivity, and equal opportunities for underrepresented minority groups within educational institutions.
In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said, “Today, this Court stands in the way and rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling striking down affirmative action in college admissions has sparked a nationwide discussion about fairness, equality, and the pursuit of diversity in higher education.