In a significant ruling, the Supreme Court declared the race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina (U.N.C.) as unlawful, curtailing a long-standing practice of affirmative action in higher education. The court’s decision, with a 6-3 vote, led to a sharp division among the justices.
- The court concluded that the admissions programs of Harvard and U.N.C. violated the equal protection clause and lacked measurable objectives. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, highlighted the negative use of race, racial stereotyping, and the absence of meaningful end points in both programs.
- Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in her dissent, emphasized the importance of affirmative action in countering racial discrimination and criticized the majority’s decision for entrenching racial inequality in education.
- The ruling is expected to result in a decrease in the representation of Black and Latino students and an increase in the population of white and Asian students at elite institutions. It may also impact diversity efforts across the country, narrowing the pipeline of qualified minority candidates and complicating the consideration of race in hiring.
- The decision reflects the conservative supermajority’s swift engagement with contentious issues, including abortion, guns, and now race, raising concerns about the court’s stability and legitimacy.
- Public opinion on affirmative action is complex, but race-conscious admissions programs generally face disapproval. It is unlikely that the ruling will trigger a backlash similar to the one following last year’s abortion decision.
- President Biden and Democrats criticized the ruling as a setback, urging continued efforts to address discrimination in America.
- Conservative leaders and advocacy groups welcomed the outcome, believing it will lead to a fairer admissions process.
- The court’s decision acknowledged that race could still be considered in college essays but emphasized individual assessment based on personal experiences rather than race.
- The ruling may have implications for military academies, with Chief Justice Roberts noting that the court did not decide on their ability to consider race in admissions due to distinct interests.
- Justices Thomas and Jackson engaged in heated exchanges, reflecting divergent perspectives on race in society and the historical context of decisions like Brown v. Board of Education.
- The cases against Harvard and U.N.C. were brought by Students for Fair Admissions, a group challenging race-conscious admissions policies. The universities argued that their policies fostered educational diversity and were lawful.
- The ruling effectively challenges the precedent set by Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003, which endorsed holistic admissions programs considering race for educational diversity.
- Justice Sotomayor expressed confidence that universities would continue to use available tools to pursue diversity, despite the court’s limitations on race-conscious admissions.
The Supreme Court’s decision to reject affirmative action programs at Harvard and U.N.C. marks a significant shift in higher education admissions policies. While the ruling drew support from conservatives, critics argue that it undermines equal protection and perpetuates racial inequality. The decision is likely to have far-reaching consequences, impacting college admissions and diversity efforts beyond the realm of education.