In a 6-3 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court said Thursday that race cannot be used as a factor in deciding college admissions — putting a halt to a process colleges have used for years to inform the makeup of their student bodies.
The University of North Carolina and Harvard University, the two colleges whose policies were challenged in the cases, both issued statements following the ruling.
UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz wrote:
"Carolina remains firmly committed to bringing together talented students with different perspectives and life experiences and continues to make an affordable, high-quality education accessible to the people of North Carolina and beyond. While not the outcome we hoped for, we will carefully review the Supreme Court's decision and take any steps necessary to comply with the law."
"We write today to reaffirm the fundamental principle that deep and transformative teaching, learning, and research depend upon a community comprising people of many backgrounds, perspectives, and lived experiences," Harvard's statement read. "That principle is as true and important today as it was yesterday."
Clarence D. Armbrister, president of Johnson C. Smith University, a historically Black college in North Carolina, called it "a sad day for diversity in America."
"By limiting race in admissions decisions, the Supreme Court has begun to reconstruct the roadblocks that blocked the paths of African Americans in this country for the over four hundred years we have been here. Those of us who work at HBCUs already know talent can be found in all hues of people."
University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Jennifer L. Mnookin acknowledged that practices would now change.
"The ruling will require some modifications to aspects of our current admissions practices; we will, of course, adapt our practices to comply with the law. At the same time, I want to reiterate that our commitment to the value of diversity within our community, including racial diversity, remains a bedrock value of the institution."
Writing in the Economist, Columbia President Lee Bollinger said he disagreed with the ruling because "affirmative action has done a world of good."
"It has a clear record of fostering diversity in higher education. Decades of social-science research, as well as my own experience, confirm that diverse learning environments benefit all students by increasing cross-racial understanding, discouraging stereotypical thinking and creating a path to leadership that is visibly open to all," Bollinger said.
Meanwhile, reactions in the Executive Branch and in Congress split largely across party lines. President Biden said the ruling "upended decades of precedent that enabled America's colleges and universities to build vibrant diverse environments," while House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he expected the decision would "make the college admissions process fairer and uphold equality under the law."
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