The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that race-conscious admissions practices at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are unconstitutional, overturning decades of legal precedent around Affirmative Action.
The decision was rendered six to three along ideological lines.
The decision has significant implications for college recruitment and enrollment, as it challenges the use of race as a factor in admissions decisions. While the ruling allows colleges to consider how race may have influenced an applicant’s life in relation to their character or unique abilities, it prohibits the establishment of race-based admissions policies.
Most legal experts expected the decision from the conservative-leaning Supreme Court. But surprise decisions in other cases had given some onlookers hope for the future of Affirmative Action.
Conservative justice Clarence Thomas expressed doubt that colleges would have a compelling reason to use race in admissions.
“The Court today makes clear that, in the future, universities wishing to discriminate based on race in admissions must articulate and justify a compelling and measurable state interest based on concrete evidence,” Thomas wrote. “Given the strictures set out by the Court, I highly doubt any will be able to do so.”
The court’s newest justice Ketanji Brown took issue with the notion that ending Affirmative Action was ending racism.
“The best that can be said of the majority’s perspective is that it proceeds (ostrich-like) from the hope that preventing consideration of race will end racism,” Jackson wrote in her dissenting opinion. “But if that is its motivation, the majority proceeds in vain. If the colleges of this country are required to ignore a thing that matters, it will not just go away. It will take longer for racism to leave us.”
The Supreme Court is expected to deliver its ruling on yet another big higher education issue soon – Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan.