New York, NY; June 29, 2023 — The Supreme Court of the United States has rejected the use of racial preferences in college admissions. Two cases were consolidated into one opinion: Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina et al. (UNC). In its opinion, the Court holds that “Harvard’s and UNC’s admissions programs violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
“This is a momentous day,” said National Association of Scholars (NAS) President Peter W. Wood. “The Court has taken the right step to forward racial equality in America. The NAS has fought since its foundation in 1987 for the principle that individuals should be judged fairly, according to their abilities and accomplishments. Students should be admitted to colleges and universities on the basis of individual talent and character—for academic achievement, proven ability, ambition, and a commitment to learning.”
Students for Fair Admissions brought a suit against Harvard in 2014, alleging that the university used its holistic admissions process to create a de facto quota of Asian students. Statistical models of Harvard’s admissions that exclude the infamous “personal rating” predict that the natural percentage of Asian admissions would be much higher than it was when the case was filed.
The NAS filed amicus briefs in support of Students for Fair Admissions in 2018, 2020, and again in 2022. The briefs noted the similarity between Harvard’s use of “personality” metrics to discriminate against Jews in the early twentieth century. The NAS has opposed racial preferences since its founding in 1987. NAS members wrote the text of California Proposition 209, which made race-based admissions policies such as Harvard’s illegal in 1996.
Wood added, “Higher education will feel the loss of its ability to racially discriminate. Minority enrollments may well decline at elite institutions, but that common explanation for the necessity of racial preferences falls flat. As evidenced by Prop. 209 in California, minority graduations increased in the decade after the state’s citizens voted for equality. Students should go to the schools best for them, not buttonholed because of their race into institutions that do not fit their academic achievement or proven ability.”
The Court’s decision made clear that Harvard’s and UNC’s reliance on racial preferences was too broad. The two schools attempted to obfuscate unconstitutional policies and, when confronted, defend the use of race by any means necessary. As the Court notes, when faced with criticism of how to quantify diversity’s benefit and draw connections between the use of racial preferences and the institutions’ goals, the schools’ answer was, “‘trust us.’”
“The NAS celebrates this decision, but there is much to do in the fight against racial discrimination,” concluded Wood. “We must expect that the administrators of our colleges and universities will use every loophole and prevarication in their power to nullify the Supreme Court’s ruling. They will attempt to substitute camouflage such as ‘socioeconomic diversity’ as a proxy for race preferences. Through our reports and projects, the NAS will continue to explore how colleges and universities will attempt to continue the use of racial preferences. Through our policy initiatives, we will continue our fight for a legislative solution to eliminate and alleviate the harm caused by subterfuges that attempt to prolong state-sponsored racial discrimination. Americans now can set about the work of eliminating such discrimination in practice, as well as in theory.”
NAS is a network of scholars and citizens united by a commitment to academic freedom, disinterested scholarship, and excellence in American higher education. Membership in NAS is open to all who share a commitment to these broad principles. NAS publishes a journal and has state and regional affiliates. Visit NAS at www.nas.org.
If you would like more information about this issue, please contact Chance Layton at [email protected].
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