By Editor-June 29th, 2023.
The US Supreme Court has ruled that colleges and universities cannot consider the race of a prospective student when deciding who to admit in academically competitive colleges.
Those programs “violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the 6-3 majority ruling in both cases, Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard, and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina.
Passed by Congress June 13, 1866, and ratified July 9, 1868, the 14th Amendment extended liberties and rights granted by the Bill of Rights to formerly enslaved people. It has several parts.
The Equal Protection Clause is part of the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The clause, which took effect in 1868, provides “nor shall any State … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Traditionally this amendment had been taken to reinforce the rights of black citizens in the US to preferential treatment to right past wrongs , but more recently some constitutional judges in the US have been inclined to see it as also defending the rights of white (or other race) citizens to be treated equally.
The new ruling mandates that individuals in similar situations be treated equally by the law.The ruling ends a decades-long practice of affirmative action where universities could take race into account in order to improve the racial balance of the student body.
The cases concerned admissions at Harvard and the University of North Carolina and will impact admissions rules nationwide. If colleges want a diverse student body, they must now find other ways to diversify admissions without considering race.
Affirmative action first made its way into policy in the 1960s, as many all-white schools began admitting minority students
The court has six conservative-leaning justices while three were appointed by Democratic presidents.
TV network crews are lined up outside the Supreme Court to mark this hugely significant decision.
Few observers are surprised at the outcome of this long-awaited ruling, given the conservative majority of the court.
But no one is under-playing it.
US correspondents are describing it as a “major” and “landmark” judgement that’s come today from their country’s highest court and no doubt there will be a great deal of heated discussion to follow.
Race-based affirmative action policies, introduced in the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s, were designed to boost the number of black and Hispanic students on college campuses.
Supporters say they help traditionally underrepresented groups while ensuring the student body reflects the diversity of the wider population. Opponents say it’s reverse discrimination.
Many universities in the US did not allow minority students to attend until the 1960s.
Although race-based quotas have been deemed unconstitutional for decades, race was still one of several factors – such as economic status, gender or religious belief – that are looked at alongside a student’s academic scores and personal qualities.
What did the liberal judges who voted against the reversal have to say?
Justice Sotomayor writes that today’s decision “subverts the constitutional guarantee of equal protection by further entrenching racial inequality in education”, a move she says “rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress”.
She argues the ruling “cements a superficial rule of colorblindness as a constitutional principle in an endemically segregated society where race has always mattered and continues to matter”.
Justice Jackson – a Biden appointee and the first black woman ever to sit on the court – goes further: “With let-them-eat-cake obliviousness, today, the majority pulls the ripcord and announces ‘colourblindness 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,” she adds, “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.”
Sources: BBC, CNN, NBC.