The Supreme Court ruled against affirmative action in the admission processes of colleges and universities Thursday, alleging it is unconstitutional for public and private institutions to consider race as a factor when accepting applicants.
The decision is a rare ruling against affirmative action since it was first upheld in 1978 with the landmark case, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. Before Thursday’s ruling, the Court had consistently ruled in favor of the practice to address inequality and diversity issues on college campuses.
In cases against the University of North Carolina and Harvard University, the Court alleged the schools’ admissions policies favoring affirmative action violate the 14th amendment’s equal protection clause.
The Court voted 6-3 against UNC and 6-2 against Harvard, with Justices Ketanji Brown Jackson, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissenting. Jackson withheld from voting in the Harvard case, having attended the university’s undergraduate and law programs, later serving on its board of overseers.
“By ending race-conscious college admissions, this Court closes the door of opportunity that the Court’s precedents helped open to young students of every race,” Sotomayor said in her dissent.
Although the Court ruled against the outright use of affirmative action in admissions, Chief Justice John Roberts emphasized in his ruling that the decision does not prohibit applicants from discussing their own experiences with race in personal essays and applications.
“Nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise,” Roberts wrote.
In response to the decision, Indiana University President Pamela Whitten issued a joint statement in collaboration with other university leaders, stressing values of promoting diversity on campus.
“In the weeks to come, we will work to understand this ruling and what may be required to ensure that IU follows the law, while also continuing to pursue the principles and values that have shaped the learning environment we seek across IU,” leaders said in the statement.
Thursday’s ruling comes just over a year after the landmark decision against Roe v. Wade, another case of previously upheld precedents reversed by the Court’s conservative majority.