Supreme Court rules against affirmative action programs in college admissions 

The court voted along ideological lines, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing the majority opinion on behalf of the five other conservative justices.

The Supreme Court ruled against affirmative action on Thursday, critically restricting decades-long programs that considered race in college admissions.

The court voted along ideological lines, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing the majority opinion on behalf of the five other conservative justices.

The landmark ruling comes after the court heard hours-long oral arguments last fall both in favor and against whether private and public collegiate institutions should consider race during the admissions process. 

Protesters gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court as affirmative action cases involving Harvard and University of North Carolina admissions are heard by the court in Washington on Monday, October 31, 2022. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Students for Fair Admissions, led by Edward Blum, filed two lawsuits alleging the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Harvard University gave preferential treatment to Black and Latino students in the college admissions process and discriminated against white and Asians Americans, as theGrio previously reported.

Blum filed lawsuits on behalf of thousands of students who believe they have faced race-based discrimination when applying to college. In the lawsuits, he alleges that affirmative action should be removed from the college admissions process because it is discriminatory.

Pamela Coukos, co-founder of Working IDEAL, a human resources organization that promotes diversity in the workplace, told theGrio, “We’re in a really important moment for our country in terms of attacks on democracy.”

She added that attempts to “pull back on opportunities” for certain groups are “weakening our democratic values.”

Critics argued that affirmative action grants minorities an unfair advantage in the college admissions process and discriminates against white and Asian Americans. 

Leslie Williams, higher and post-secondary education lecturer at Teachers College, Columbia University, told theGrio, “There isn’t evidence” to support that minority students are solely admitted to predominantly white institutions based on race. 

“The students who are admitted are capable of doing the work,” he said.

Williams then criticized affirmative action opposers who fail to denounce white and wealthy Americans who benefit the most from the college admissions process. 

FILE – Activists demonstrate as the Supreme Court hears oral arguments on a pair of cases that could decide the future of affirmative action in college admissions, in Washington, Oct. 31, 2022. As the Supreme Court decides the fate of affirmative action, most Americans say the court should allow consideration of race as part of the admissions process, yet few believe students’ race should play a significant role in decisions. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

“There are other groups that get preferences. Legacy admissions and athletic admissions, but the issue of racial preference is something that sticks to a particular set of folks that they just won’t let it go,” he added.

“The original rationale for affirmative action was really about redressing racial disparities, inequality, subordination,” said Williams.

Dennis Parker, executive director of the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, told theGrio, that “Race is one of many factors that schools can consider when they are admitting someone.” 

“I don’t think that it is giving an automatic preference or that it’s permitting unqualified people to be accepted or anything like that,” he said.

Colleges and universities, he added, benefit greatly when the student body is diverse. 

“There is an enormous amount of social science research that says that there are benefits for everyone when having a diverse student body,” said Parker.

In the months leading up to the decision, many suspected the 6-3 conservative majority court would overturn Grutter v. Bollinger, which permitted the use of race in the college admissions process at the University of Michigan’s law school in 2003.  

Oct 7, 2022; Washington, DC, USA; Members of the Supreme Court pose for a group photo at the Supreme Court. Seated from left: Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr., Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. and Associate Justice Elena Kagan Standing behind from left: Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Associate Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, Associate Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. Mandatory Credit: Jack Gruber-USA TODAY

Parker told theGrio that if the court reversed affirmative action, “that may result in a rapid decrease in the number of students of color and may make it far more difficult to have a school that is diverse.”

Williams told theGrio, “There’s a possibility that enrollments at HBCUs could increase” and that admissions applications would “definitely decrease at selective colleges and universities.” 

Before the ruling came down, Parker told theGrio that he was “very apprehensive” about the upcoming ruling because, for the past 40 years, the court has upheld affirmative action in the college admission process.  

He said, when the Supreme Court granted certiorari to both affirmative action cases, “that raised the question of why it was necessary for them to review it again.” That suggested that they “may be thinking of changing the established law.”

Williams said the political makeup of the court and the fact that the justices agreed to review these affirmative action cases at this time “is a statement of where we are.”

“Affirmative action has basically lasted [nearly 60 years],” he noted. “[However] in this country politically right now, these efforts have been continually there to erode, to eliminate the opportunity for those who have been subordinated for so long.”

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