The decision affirms that race cannot be one of the factors used in the college admission process.
By Zee Johnson
In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court struck down race-conscious admission programs at colleges and universities across the country, known as affirmative action, overturning the legal precedent that stood for more than 40 years.
The 6-3 decision, which was in favor of the conservative majority, found that Harvard University and the University of North Carolina’s admissions programs violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Th opinion written by Justice John Roberts said, “Many universities have for too long…concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.”.
Affirmative action has been used for decades by colleges and universities in an effort to address inequality and diversify their campuses. In the years after its inception, Black, Hispanic, Native America, and Asian American college attendance soared. But the new ruling threatens to reverse that. In fact, at institutions where affirmative action has already been eliminated, like the University of California Berkley, there has been a substantial decline in minority representation—by 40%.
Justices Ketanji Brown Jackson, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented in the two cases, viewing the decision as a major setback for inclusion.
Justice Jackson, the court’s first Black female justice, said, “With let-them-eat-cake obliviousness, today, the majority pulls the ripcord and announces ‘colorblindness for all’ by legal fiat. But deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life.” And Justice Sotomayor, the court’s first Hispanic justice, said that the court’s decision “rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress.”
While colleges will see the bulk of the impact, the ruling’s effects will be residual. In fact, nearly 70 major U.S. companies, like JetBlue Airways, Apple, Google, and Starbucks, said in a brief to the court that without affirmative action, they will risk losing access to “a pipeline of highly qualified future workers and business leaders,” and will also struggle to meet diversity hiring goals.
Last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that White workers represented the majority in all occupational groups, and the National Center for Education Statistics found that in 2021, Whites had the highest undergraduate enrollment of any group, at nearly 8 million, while Hispanics accounted for 3.3 million, Blacks 1.9 million, and Asian Americans 1.1 million.