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Supreme Court Rules Against Affirmative Action in College Admissions, Rejects Use of Race as a Factor

by Sophia Chen
5 comments
affirmative action

In a significant decision, the Supreme Court declared on Thursday that affirmative action in college admissions is unconstitutional, stating that race cannot be a determining factor. This ruling compels higher education institutions to explore alternative methods of achieving diversity among their student bodies.

The court’s conservative majority overturned admissions policies at two prestigious institutions, Harvard and the University of North Carolina, which have long been at the center of affirmative action debates.

Chief Justice John Roberts expressed that universities have mistakenly placed too much emphasis on an individual’s race, rather than focusing on their accomplishments, skills, and personal growth. He emphasized that such a choice goes against our constitutional history.

Justice Clarence Thomas, the nation’s second African American justice, who has consistently opposed affirmative action, wrote separately, asserting that the universities’ admissions policies were based on race and aimed at manipulating the racial composition of incoming classes.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, arguing that the decision rolls back decades of progress and established legal precedent.

Notably, both Thomas and Sotomayor, who had acknowledged the role affirmative action played in their own admissions to college and law school, went against tradition and read a summary of their opinions aloud in the courtroom.

In another dissent, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the court’s first Black female justice, lamented the decision, stating that it was a tragedy for society as a whole. She criticized the majority’s assertion of “colorblindness for all” and highlighted the distinction between legal principles and the reality of racial dynamics in everyday life.

The vote in the North Carolina case was 6-3, and in the Harvard case, it was 6-2, with Justice Elena Kagan as the other dissenter.

President Joe Biden was expected to address the ruling later in the day from the White House.

Former President Donald Trump hailed the decision on his social media platform, viewing it as a triumph for the nation and a reward for individuals with exceptional abilities and potential.

Former President Barack Obama, on the other hand, issued a statement expressing his belief that affirmative action had provided opportunities for students from various backgrounds, and emphasized the importance of granting young people the opportunities they deserve.

The Supreme Court had previously upheld race-conscious college admissions programs twice in the past two decades, with the most recent ruling in 2016. However, the addition of three justices appointed by former President Donald Trump to the court has shifted the balance, leading to doubts about the practice during the recent arguments.

Lower courts had previously upheld the admissions policies of both UNC and Harvard, rejecting claims of discrimination against white and Asian American applicants.

These college admissions cases are part of a broader set of high-profile cases focused on race in America, and they were evaluated by the most diverse Supreme Court ever, with four women, two Black justices, and one Latina justice among the nine.

Conservative activist Edward Blum, known for his opposition to affirmative action, initiated these cases through his organization, Students for Fair Admissions, which argued that race should not be a consideration in college admissions, proposing race-neutral alternatives to achieve diversity.

The colleges countered that while they did consider race in a limited manner, eliminating it entirely would make it significantly more challenging to create student bodies that reflect the diversity of the country.

Federal data showed a 55% increase in nonwhite students at the eight Ivy League universities between 2010 and 2021. However, the end of affirmative action in California, Michigan, Washington state, and other places has led to a notable decline in minority enrollment in leading public universities.

It is worth noting that nine states already prohibit the consideration of race in admissions to their public colleges and universities, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nebraska, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma.

A recent poll revealed that 63% of U.S. adults believe colleges should be allowed to consider race as part of the admissions process, although many do not believe that race should play a major role in decision-making. Another survey indicated that half of Americans disapprove of race-based considerations in admissions, while one-third approve.

Several justices on the Supreme Court, including Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Jackson, obtained their undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard, and other justices such as Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch attended law school there. With the exception of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, whose alma mater, Rhodes College, was not involved in the cases, every college and university attended by the justices supported the preservation of race-conscious admissions policies, including Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Notre Dame, and Holy Cross.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about affirmative action

What did the Supreme Court decide regarding affirmative action in college admissions?

The Supreme Court ruled that affirmative action in college admissions is unconstitutional and that race cannot be a determining factor in the admissions process. The court’s conservative majority overturned admissions plans at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, stating that universities need to find new ways to achieve diverse student bodies.

How did Chief Justice John Roberts justify the decision?

Chief Justice John Roberts argued that universities have wrongly prioritized an individual’s race over their accomplishments, skills, and personal growth. He emphasized that our constitutional history does not tolerate this approach and that universities should focus on factors such as challenges overcome and lessons learned, rather than the color of one’s skin.

What were the opinions of Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Sonia Sotomayor?

Justice Clarence Thomas, who has consistently opposed affirmative action, wrote that the admissions policies of universities were race-based preferences aimed at ensuring a particular racial mix in their incoming classes. On the other hand, Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, stating that the decision rolled back decades of progress and precedent in promoting racial equality.

How will this decision impact college admissions and diversity?

With the ban on affirmative action, colleges and universities will need to explore alternative methods to achieve diversity in their student bodies. The ruling suggests that race-neutral alternatives, such as focusing on socioeconomic status or eliminating preferences for alumni and major donors, can be considered. However, the decision may have significant implications for achieving a diverse student body that reflects the broader population.

What were the voting outcomes and the response from former presidents?

The vote was 6-3 in the North Carolina case and 6-2 in the Harvard case, with Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor dissenting. Former President Donald Trump hailed the decision as a great day for America, while former President Barack Obama expressed his belief that affirmative action provided opportunities for students from various backgrounds and emphasized the importance of providing equal opportunities.

How does this ruling compare to previous Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action?

The Supreme Court had previously upheld race-conscious college admissions programs, including as recently as 2016. However, the addition of three justices appointed by former President Donald Trump shifted the balance of the court. This recent ruling indicates a shift in the court’s position and raises doubts about the future of affirmative action in higher education.

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5 comments

JohnDoe32 June 29, 2023 - 4:44 pm

wow this is a big decision! finally no more affirmative action! this is what america needed!!

Reply
HistoryBuff84 June 29, 2023 - 8:09 pm

I’m glad the Court is recognizing that race shouldn’t be a factor. It’s about merit, not skin color!

Reply
SoccerMom99 June 30, 2023 - 1:33 am

Finally! Now my kids can get into college based on their own achievements, not their race! #fairness

Reply
GinaPeters June 30, 2023 - 10:52 am

so upset about this decision. it’s a step backwards in the fight for equality. #disappointed

Reply
EmmaSmith27 June 30, 2023 - 1:46 pm

omg can’t believe they did this!! this is going to affect diversity so much 🙁

Reply

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