US President Joe Biden on Thursday rebuked the country’s Supreme Court for striking down race-conscious student admissions programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina (UNC), media reports said.
Biden in a tweet said that he “strongly disagrees” with the ruling. “For decades, the Supreme Court recognised a college’s freedom to decide how to build a diverse student body and provide opportunity. Today, the Court walked away from precedent, effectively ending affirmative action in higher education. I strongly disagree with this decision,” the tweet read.
“Our colleges are stronger when they are racially diverse. And America is stronger because we are tapping into our full range of talent. Today’s Supreme Court decision is not the last word,” it added.
This comes after the decision by the apex court dealt a significant blow to affirmative action policies which aimed at increasing diversity on college campuses.
The court’s conservative justices, with dissenting opinions from the liberal justices, voted in favour of Students for Fair Admissions, an organisation led by anti-affirmative action activist Edward Blum. The organisation had challenged the admissions policies of these prestigious institutions.
US Supreme Court decision
The court’s decision was a 6-3 vote against UNC and a 6-2 vote against Harvard.
Chief Justice John Roberts, for the majority, stated that the admissions programs at both universities violated the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution, emphasising that students should be evaluated as individuals rather than based on their race.
Roberts clarified that this ruling does not prohibit universities from discussing an applicant’s personal experiences with race biases.
Roberts said that students “must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual, not on the basis of race. Many universities have for too long done just the opposite. And in doing so, they have concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the colour of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.”
“At the same time,” Roberts said, “as all parties agree, 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.”
Support towards affirmative action
Affirmative action has been supported by numerous educational institutions, corporations, and military leaders as a means to address racial inequities and foster diverse perspectives in workplaces and the armed forces.
However, the court’s decision is seen as a setback to these efforts.
Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor voiced her dissent. She argued that the ruling undermines the constitutional guarantee of equal protection and perpetuates racial inequality in education.
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“Today, this Court stands in the way and rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress,” she wrote in a dissent. She was joined by Jackson and Liberal Justice Elena Kagan.
Legal challenges and background
Blum’s organisation filed lawsuits in 2014, alleging that UNC and Harvard discriminated against white, Asian American, and other non-underrepresented minority applicants.
The lawsuits argued that UNC’s admissions policy violated the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection, while Harvard’s policy violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Supreme Court’s conservative shift since 2016, along with the appointment of three justices by former President Donald Trump, provided an opportunity to reconsider previous rulings on race-conscious admissions policies.
World leaders react over court’s decision
Former US President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama have also reacted over this key ruling by US Supreme Court. They joined the list of several other top Democrats who were quick to respond to the now-struck-down policy of the universities.
Michelle Obama, the former first lady, shared her personal experience of being one of the few Black students on her college campus.
In a statement shared on her Twitter account, she expressed her sadness for young individuals who may be uncertain about their future after the apex court’s ruling. “Today, my heart breaks for any young person out there who’s wondering what their future holds — and what kinds of chances will be open to them.”
“Today is a reminder that we’ve got to do the work not just to enact policies that reflect our values of equity and fairness, but to truly make those values real in all of our schools, workplaces, and neighbourhood,” she said in the statement.
In a tweet, Barack Obama responded, “Affirmative action was never a complete answer in the drive towards a more just society. But for generations of students who had been systematically excluded from most of America’s key institutions—it gave us the chance to show we more than deserved a seat at the table. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent decision, it’s time to redouble our efforts.”
Trump calls ruling ‘a great day for America’
In a clear show of support for the Supreme Court’s ruling, former US President Donald Trump called the decision by the apex court “a great day for America.”
“This is the ruling everyone was waiting and hoping for and the result was amazing. It will also keep us competitive with the rest of the world. Our greatest minds must be cherished and that’s what this wonderful day has brought. We’re going back to all merit-based—and that’s the way it should be!” he told a media outlet.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis tweeted the Supreme Court has correctly upheld the constitution and ended discrimination by colleges and universities. “College admissions should be based on merit and applicants should not be judged on their race or ethnicity,” he wrote in a tweet.
South Carolina Senator Tim Scott also backed the ruling and told Fox News, “This is a good day for America. Honestly, this is the day where we understand that being judged by the content of our character, not the colour of our skin is what our constitution wants. We are continuing to work on forming this more perfect union. Today is better than yesterday, this year better than last year, this decade better than last decade. The progress that we’re seeing in this nation is palpable.”
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