The United States Supreme Court this Thursday ended positive racial discrimination at universities, ruling that Harvard and the University of North Carolina violated the Constitution by using race as a factor in the admissions process.
The opinion was written by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and supported by the five conservative justices. The three progressive justices were against it.
“Many universities have (…) mistakenly concluded that the cornerstone of an individual’s identity is not the challenges overcome, the skills acquired or the insights gained, but the color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate this decision.” can be read in the sentence.
Nevertheless, the ruling underlines that nothing prevents universities from taking into account in the admissions process how a student’s experience of racism has affected their life, but always on an individual basis.
Judges conclude that Harvard University admissions to the University of North Carolina violate the 14th Amendment
Specifically, the justices believe that the admissions process at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, two of the oldest institutions in the country, violates the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees equality before the law.
In the North Carolina case, prosecutors argued that admissions policies discriminated against white and Asian candidates compared to African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans, while in the Harvard case, a group of Asian students denounced the use of subjective criteria to limit the number of accepted candidates.
Harvard University has said it will abide by the Supreme Court’s ruling but has promised to look for ways to preserve diversity among students. “Harvard should always be a place of opportunity with doors open to those to whom they have long been closed. A place where many can make dreams come true that their parents or grandparents could not have,” the center’s management said in a statement. .
Arguments against progressive judges
Progressive Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who has in the past defended colleges’ ability to consider race in the admissions process, wrote in her dissent that the conservative justices’ decision “overturns decades of precedent and important progress.”
“Equality of opportunity in education is a prerequisite for achieving racial equality in our country,” he defended.
African-American Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson said in her own dissent that “the irrelevant assumption of race in law does not mean it is so in life.”
However, Justice Clarence Thomas, also African-American and one of the most conservative justices on the court, accused Jackson in a concurring opinion of believing that “all outcomes in life are undoubtedly due to race.”
Affirmative action gained particular importance in the country during the African American civil rights movement and the end of racial segregation in schools in the 1950s.
Protection since 1978
Since 1978, the Supreme Court has protected the right of universities to consider race as a factor in the admissions process, albeit on a limited basis.
However, in its ruling this Thursday, the court finds that the admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina “lack sufficiently targeted and measurable goals to justify the use of race” and that “they use race in negative ways and use stereotypes”. .
Biden calls on universities to ensure diversity
Biden: “I completely disagree with the decision because they misunderstood positive discrimination”
After the verdict, hundreds of people gathered in protest outside the doors of the Supreme Court. United States President Joe Biden has sent a message from the White House calling on universities to continue to ensure racial diversity among their students.
“In practice, the court has put an end to positive discrimination in university admissions. I completely disagree with the decision because they misunderstood positive discrimination,” he said.
The Democratic leader recalled that universities have for decades used race as one of the many factors to consider when admitting students, with the goal of promoting diversity. However, he made it clear that in no case did this system allow students with lower qualifications to enter the university ahead of other, better-prepared students simply because of their skin color.
Meanwhile, former President Barack Obama, the country’s only black president, called for “redoubled efforts” against discrimination. In a message on Twitter, Obama acknowledged that positive discrimination is “never a complete answer” in the fight for a fairer society.
But he pointed out that the policy allowed many students who had been “systematically excluded from the nation’s premier educational institutions” for several generations, including himself, to show that they “deserved a seat at the table.”
Meanwhile, his wife, Michelle Obama, said her heart breaks for every young person who wonders what the future holds and what opportunities will open up to them.