Supreme Court Finds Race-Conscious Admissions Unconstitutional in Landmark Decision

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(Courtesy of Wikemedia Commons)

By Caelan Roberts, Online Managing Editor

 

On Thursday, the Supreme Court struck down race-based admissions programs at the University of North Carolina and Harvard University. The court stated in the decision that such programs violate the Constitution.

“Because Harvard’s and UNC’s admissions programs lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful end points, those admissions programs cannot be reconciled with the guarantees of the Equal Protection Clause [of the 14th amendment],” stated the majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts.

The decision comes after the nonprofit group Students for Fair Admissions sued Harvard and UNC for alleged discrimination against Asian American students. 

In her dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that the court’s decision “cements a superficial rule of colorblindness as a constitutional principle in an endemically segregated society where race has always mattered and continues to matter.”

In an email interview, Erika George, professor of law at the University of Utah, said it’s “worth noting that nothing in the opinion bans universities from considering how a student applicant discusses the way race has affected their lived experience in connection to what the applicant could contribute to the university.”

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, the U said students’ race and ethnicity are not a factor in the admissions process. 

In the statement, President Taylor Randall assured students that his priority remains to create an inclusive and diverse environment at the U.

The Utah System of Higher Education also released a statement, adding public institutions of higher education in Utah would not be affected.

“While the recent decision by the Supreme Court to strike down affirmative action policies may be causing concern among students and families throughout the nation, it is important to note that this ruling will not impact admissions at public colleges and universities in Utah,” the statement read.

Despite this, some students at the U are still troubled by the decision. Daniel Gil De Lamadrid, third-year sociology major, said he was “appalled but unsurprised” by the decision in an email interview.

He said the decision is both “an attack on students of color and one event within a larger far-right movement against social progress.”

Lamadrid added he has personally benefited from affirmative action programs as a member of several minority groups. He also feels the decision will “impact my chances of getting into graduate programs that tend to be predominantly white spaces.”

Although it is still unclear if the Supreme Court’s decision will affect the composition of the U’s student body, George said in other states such as California, limits placed on race-conscious admissions have also limited enrollment of underrepresented students.

Still, she reassured students this decision will not limit them in discussing their racial identity and how it has affected them in any admissions process or university environment. 

“Because the Court’s opinion devotes attention to the history of racial exclusion and inclusion in American law, I also hope students will become more curious about history — their own personal family history, our nation’s history and the histories of the colleges and universities they attend,” George added. “These questions remain worth exploring, not ignoring.”

 

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