Earlier today the U.S. Supreme Court dismantled race-conscious admissions in higher education with its decision in two cases brought by Students for Fair Admissions against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. In its ruling, the Court’s majority relied on the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, but they dismissed the reality that in the U.S., race continues to affect access and educational outcomes. Over the course of five decades, affirmative action - and race-conscious admissions in particular - has fundamentally altered colleges and universities to be more racially diverse and to expose students to a broader range of perspectives. More than ever, we must affirm that fostering an inclusive campus remains an integral part of the mission of higher education, and is key to cultivating academic inquiry and advancing student success.
In a webinar hosted in May by NASPA’s Public Policy Division, panelists cautioned against pre-emptively disinvesting financial and human resources in diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. The Court’s decision focuses on the use of race as a decision factor in selective admission. It undoes one mechanism - albeit an important one - to facilitate diverse learning environments and accessible post-secondary opportunities, but institutions can and must continue to invest meaningfully in effective recruitment, retention, and support strategies. Support for diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice initiatives is more important than ever, in order to signal to prospective and current students that their experiences and strengths are valued and welcomed. The end of race-conscious admissions nationally will impact the way institutions, faculty, staff, and students navigate equity and inclusion work, but it does not change the charge to the profession to carry out this work.
We can learn from what colleagues have done to continue advancing racial equity at institutions in the nine states with existing legislative bans on race-conscious admissions. Some of these states have experienced decreases in racially diverse representation on campuses, but they continue to focus on race-conscious services, programs, and data collection and analysis. While the Supreme Court decision presents an undeniable hurdle, NASPA supports the continued development of equity-centered, identity-conscious strategies to create racially diverse campus environments and support racially minoritized students. In July, the Public Policy Division will host a webinar to explore the implications of the SFFA decisions on institutional policies and practices.
We recognize that the Court’s decision arrives in a climate of uncertainty and fear resulting from coordinated attacks on higher education diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. NASPA has coordinated the following educational and advocacy initiatives to amplify impact and highlight opportunities to continue supporting students and staff:
Register for the Public Policy Division’s July 27 webinar, “Implications of Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and UNC: Post-Decision Panel” (free for NASPA members)
Download the free report “Student Affairs Perspectives on Anti-Critical Race Theory State Policies and National Narratives” (May 2023)
Share NASPA’s Anti-DEI Legislation: Resources for Student Affairs Professionals website and submit your thoughts and feedback here