Higher Ed Leaders React to Supreme Court Affirmative Action Ruling

The Supreme Court's decision to  strike down affirmative action in college admissions is causing some strong reaction from higher education leaders. The decision declares race cannot be a factor and forcing institutions of higher education to look for new ways to achieve diverse student bodies.

Higher education leaders were quick to voice their opinion on the decision.

“With the SCOTUS decision to inhibit the ability of programs to take into account how race has impacted an applicant's trajectory/experiences, the risk of regressing toward a homogenous pool of students, who have been advantaged throughout their education, is now at an all time high,” said Dr. Kelly Dore, Part-Time Associate Professor at McMaster University and VP of Science & Innovation at Acuity Insights. “It is critical, more than ever, for higher education institutions to work on other ways to ensure fair and equitable admissions. The admissions processes need to be urgently re-engineered to ensure that the traditionally disadvantaged populations get equitable access to higher education, and ensure the student body has the diversity that is critical to preparing them for the communities they will serve. Without this effort, we will see representation of minorities on campuses fall. We will also start to see the adverse impact on workplaces over the coming years, reversing the modest diversity gains that have been made in various organizations over the past couple of decades,” she said.

Dr. Reynold Verret, President Xavier University of Louisiana, said, "Throughout the history of this nation to this very day, equity of educational opportunity and access has not been afforded to all Americans. This impoverishes the nation in depriving her of the talent manifest in the minds of so many. Now is the moment to which we are called to imagine a way a way forward that assures equity and justice."

Added Dr. James Hildreth, CEO and President of Meharry Medical College, one of the nation’s four medical HBCUs, “Today the Supreme Court dealt a severe blow to millions of Black and Brown Americans, far beyond college campuses. In the name of equity for the nation’s most privileged students, the affirmative action ban will amplify injustices from higher education to hospitals. We can expect the vast chasm of racial representation in healthcare to widen even further. As the number of Black and Brown medical school graduates plummets, the ban will effectively rip away the hard-won lifeline of care for America’s most underserved populations," he said,

Achieving the Dream issued a statement saying, “The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on affirmative action in higher education is a step in the wrong direction for our students, our colleges and universities, and our nation. The Court’s decision in the Students for Fair Admissions cases will set back efforts to have our nation’s colleges and universities more accurately reflect the diverse nation they serve by eliminating race as a factor in admissions decisions at selective institutions and will have a chilling effect on the diversity of our higher education system, including the nation’s 1,200 community colleges.”

The statement went on to say, “This decision wrongfully overturns the longstanding understanding, upheld by the Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas — and reaffirmed by the lower courts — that diversity is a compelling governmental interest that supports the consideration of race as a contributing factor in college admissions. While our institutions have continued to make progress in supporting racially minoritized students, there is significant evidence that we have not reached the point where considering race as a contributing factor is no longer needed. Rather, as the University of California and University of Michigan have demonstrated, the loss of affirmative action has been severely detrimental to the diversity of their student populations.”

Nationally renowned civil rights and personal injury attorney Ben Crump released a statement saying "This ruling reeks of the intellectual justification of discrimination. As we have recently witnessed in politics, this is a coordinated effort to undo much of the progress made to turn America into a land of equal opportunity. The truth is, Black Americans do not have equal opportunity because our starting line is miles behind that of our white peers," he said.

“It’s obvious that social inequities and systematic discrimination create a more difficult and treacherous path for Black and Brown people to achieve stability and success, blocking their ability to accumulate generational wealth and get their families to a place of financial security. Affirmative action opened doors for bright, young people that were closed to them for generations," according to Crump.

Dave Wilkin, CEO and Co-Founder of Ten Thousand Coffees (10KC), a talent experience platform focused on inclusive mentoring and employee connectivity, made public some clear bullet points regarding the ruling:

  • Affirmative action is to help underrepresented groups level the playing field where they do face more barriers to opportunity. Now those supports can no longer be provided to those that need it most. 
  • This precedent, while applicable to college admissions, is going to hit workplaces next, which threatens the progress, measures, and programs that are helping under-represented talent thrive and organizations meet/exceed their board-level DEI mandates. 
  • 10KC builds and manages networking and mentoring programs at over 200 organizations to provide under-represented employees access to leaders, sponsors, and mentors to help them advance and thrive in organizations.
  • This supreme court case will compromise the progress and programming that companies have set goals around at board levels.
  • Given employees from underrepresented groups face more barriers to advancement, recruitment, development, and belonging... they require preferred/priority access to programs. We are going to see this precedent hit the workplace next.