The United States Supreme Court invalidated affirmative action programs at the University of North Carolina (UNC) and Harvard University, halting the usage of race as a determining factor in the admission process.
The court found the programs violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause, ruling them illegal. The verdict was 6-3 for the UNC case and 6-2 for the Harvard case, with Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson recusing herself from the latter.
This decision was commended by leading conservatives, who referred to the Constitution as “colorblind.” Former President Donald Trump called the judgment “a great day for America.”
However, liberals denounced the verdict, arguing that affirmative action programs are instrumental in rectifying historic racial discrimination. Former first lady Micheal Obama said, “It was not perfect.”
President Joe Biden called the ruling a severe disappointment. He said, “The court has effectively ended affirmative action in college admissions, and I strongly, strongly disagree with the court’s decision.”
However, the president emphasized that his administration would offer instructions on ensuring diversity in colleges while adhering to the ruling.
The ruling marks a significant shift from previous judgments, such as the 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger, where the court had upheld the consideration of race in admissions to maintain diverse campuses. The court’s recent decision abrogates this precedent along with previous ones that allowed limited consideration of race in university admissions to address historical discrimination.
While Chief Justice John Roberts didn’t explicitly state that previous precedents were overturned, Justice Clarence Thomas, in his concurring opinion, noted that the Grutter case was essentially overruled. Roberts contended that both programs insufficiently defined their objectives, employed race negatively, resorted to racial stereotyping, and lacked meaningful endpoints.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson dissented, emphasizing the rollback of decades of progress and precedent. The majority opinion on affirmative action showcases the current ideological divide within the Supreme Court, which is more diverse than ever.
Universities with highly competitive admissions processes will face the brunt of this ruling, potentially leading to a significant decrease in Black student enrollment since the majority of Black students do not read, write or do math at grade level and therefore are not college-ready.
While this ruling restricts race-based affirmative action, Roberts hinted at the possibility of individual racial experiences being considered. He also left military academies’ consideration of race unaffected. However, this ruling will likely create ripple effects beyond higher education, impacting K-12 schools and potentially leading to future challenges against employer diversity programs.
This judgment aligns with the timeline Justice Sandra Day O’Connor suggested in the 2003 ruling, stating that affirmative action programs should be phased out by 2028.
The conservative group brought forth the challenges, Students for Fair Admissions, who claimed the affirmative action programs were discriminatory against white and Asian applicants. In response, both universities emphasized their commitment to fostering diverse communities, pledging to align their admission strategies with the new precedent.