Today, at the U.S. Supreme Court:
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
STUDENTS FOR FAIR ADMISSIONS, INC. v.
PRESIDENT AND FELLOWS OF HARVARD COLLEGE
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR
THE FIRST CIRCUIT
No. 20–1199. Argued October 31, 2022—Decided June 29, 2023
For the reasons provided above, the Harvard and UNC admissions programs cannot be reconciled with the guarantees of the Equal Protection Clause. Both 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 endpoints. We have never permitted admissions programs towork in that way, and we will not do so today.
At the same time, as all parties agree, nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universitiesfrom considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise. See, e.g., 4 App. in No. 21–707, at 1725–1726, 1741; Tr. of Oral Arg. in No. 20–1199, at 10. But, despite the dissent’s assertion to the contrary, universities may not simply establish through application essays or other means the regime we hold unlawful today. (A dissenting opinion is generally not the best source of legal advice on how to comply with the majority opinion.) “[W]hat cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly. The Constitution deals with substance, not shadows,” and the prohibition against racial discrimination is “levelled at the thing, not the name.” Cummings v. Missouri, 4 Wall. 277, 325 (1867). A benefit to a student who overcame racial discrimination, for example, must be tied to that student’s courage and determination. Or a benefit to a student whose heritage or culture motivated him or her to assume a leadership role or attain a particular goal must be tied to that student’s unique ability to contribute to the university. In other words, the student must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual—not on the basis of race. Many universities have for too long done just the opposite. And in doing so, they have 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.
The judgments of the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and of the District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina are reversed. It is so ordered.
Justice Sotomayor’s dissent:
[….] Today, the Court concludes that indifference to race is the only constitutionally permissible means to achieve racial equality in college admissions. That interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment is not only contrary to precedent and the entire teachings of our history, see supra, at 2–17, but is also grounded in the illusion that racial inequality was a problem of a different generation. Entrenched racial inequality remains a reality today. That is true for society writ large and, more specifically, for Harvard and the University of North Carolina (UNC), two institutions with a long history of racial exclusion. Ignoring race will not equalize a society that is racially unequal. What was true in the 1860s, and again in 1954, is true today: Equality requires acknowledgment of inequality.
This extensive body of research is supported by the most obvious data point available to this institution today: The three Justices of color on this Court graduated from elite universities and law schools with race-conscious admissions programs, and achieved successful legal careers, despite having different educational backgrounds than their peers. A discredited hypothesis that the Court previously rejected is no reason to overrule precedent.
Notwithstanding this Court’s actions, however, society’s progress toward equality cannot be permanently halted. Diversity is now a fundamental American value, housed in our varied and multicultural American community that only continues to grow. The pursuit of racial diversity will go on. Although the Court has stripped out almost all uses of race in college admissions, universities can and should continue to use all available tools to meet society’s needs for diversity in education. Despite the Court’s unjustified exercise of power, the opinion today will serve only to highlight the Court’s own impotence in the face of an America whose cries for equality resound. As has been the case before in the history of American democracy, “the arc of the moral universe” will bend toward racial justice despite the Court’s efforts today to impede its progress. Martin Luther King “Our God is Marching On!” Speech (Mar. 25, 1965).
Justice Jackson’s dissent:
Gulf-sized race-based gaps exist with respect to the health, wealth, and well-being of American citizens. They were created in the distant past, but have indisputably been passed down to the present day through the generations. Every moment these gaps persist is a moment in which this great country falls short of actualizing one of its foundational principles—the “self-evident” truth that all of us are created equal. Yet, today, the Court determines that holistic admissions programs like the one that the University of North Carolina (UNC) has operated, consistent with Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U. S. 306 (2003), are a problem with respect to achievement of that aspiration, rather than a viable solution (as has long been evident to historians, sociologists, and policymakers alike).
….But the response is simple: Our country has never been colorblind. Given the lengthy history of state-sponsored race-based preferences in America, to say that anyone is now victimized if a college considers whether that legacy of discrimination has unequally advantaged its applicants fails to acknowledge the well-documented “intergenerational transmission of inequality” that still plagues our citizenry.
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 having so detached itself from this country’s actual past and present experiences, the Court has now been lured into interfering with the crucial work that UNC and other institutions of higher learning are doing to solve America’s real-world problems.
No one benefits from ignorance. Although formal race-linked legal barriers are gone, race still matters to the lived experiences of all Americans in innumerable ways, and today’s ruling makes things worse, not better. 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. 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. And, ultiately, ignoring race just makes it matter more.
The demographics, they are a changin’:
Today, from Mark Alford (r):
Mark Alford @RepMarkAlford
Huge win out of SCOTUS today!
Race shouldn’t have ever been a factor in the college admissions process, and now it never will be again.
9:59 AM · Jun 29, 2023
Some of the responses:
Please make a list of every college and university and their presidents who denied admission because of race and read them publicly in Congress.
Uh, to what end? That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works.
Spoken like the Caucasian American male you are.
But you will still be a pathetic liar.
If you think it never should have been then you have named yourself a racist.
To have a discussion as to win to end it I can understand. But after hundreds of years of killing people of color who learned to read followed by unequal schools to not have it at all is wrong.
Congressman Alford, Please know –
The Supreme Court “DID NOT” strike down Affirmative Action Admission preferences for legacies, donors, employee families. Special recommendations are still allowed. The Court struck down Affirmative Action For everyone except WHITE PEOPLE!
You really are this fuckin’ stupid, aren’t you?
Inadequate legacy Mark Alford got stupid bullshit.
And what school did you graduate from? Just goes to show how stupid and ignorant you are. Way to represent our state you fool.
The demographics they are a changin’.