Supreme Court strikes down affirmative action in college admissions

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Students walk across BYU campus. The Supreme Court has ruled affirmative action in university admissions is unconstitutional. (Universe Archives)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled affirmative action programs at higher education institutions are unconstitutional, court opinion reports.

The Thursday, June 29 decision means that race cannot be a factor when looking to achieve diverse student bodies — that higher education must look for new ways to attain that.

In the ruling, the court looked at cases invalidating admissions plans at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, some of the nation’s oldest universities.

The court stated both schools violated the Equal Protection clause in the 14th amendment by using race as a factor in admittance.

According to the released court opinion, in the Harvard admissions process, “‘race is a determinative tip for’ a significant percentage ‘of all admitted African American and Hispanic applicants.'” The court said UNC has a similar process of racial preference.

Six justices ruled against the use of affirmative action in admissions, saying the policies led to discrimination against white and Asian applicants, while three justices dissented the decision, according to the court’s opinion.

Kayla Wayworth, a psychology major at BYU, felt concerned about the impact the decision could have on students of color.

“You have to consider a student’s socio-economic status and their race. I get that it’s unconstitutional to be considering race … but overturning that decision is going to limit the opportunities of people,” Wayworth said.

Wayworth believes affirmative action can help applicants who did not go to well-funded public schools overcome their disadvantages.

Chief Justice John Roberts, a Harvard alumnus, wrote most of the court’s opinion.

“Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it. Accordingly, the court has held that the Equal Protection Clause applies ‘without regard to any differences of race, of color or of nationality’ — it is ‘universal in (its) application,'” Roberts wrote, quoting Yick Wo v. Hopkins.

The Regents of University of California v. Bakke case from 1978 was then quoted as opposition to race-based admission policies.

“The guarantee of equal protection cannot mean one thing when applied to one individual and something else when applied to a person of another color,” the opinion read.

In his concurring statement, Justice Clarence Thomas also argued Asian-Americans have been discriminated against in admissions because of their overrepresentation, despite their own historical injustices.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissenting opinion to the ruling, arguing the Equality Clause of the 14th amendment guarantees racial equality, and affirmative action enforces it rather than violates it.

“The Court long ago concluded that this guarantee can be enforced through race-conscious means in a society that is not, and has never been, colorblind,” Sotomayor wrote, referring to Brown vs. Board of Education, which ruled racial segregation as unconstitutional.

Efrain Cuassy, a biochemistry major and Mexican-American student at BYU believes admissions should take into account income over race because income is a large determining factor in educational prospects.

“I don’t think it should be a race thing, it should be … more of an income aspect. It should really be based on how well of a student you are and what you provide to the school, and I think that’s honestly a good thing that BYU does … they look at what you’re gonna provide to BYU,” Cuassy said.

On his Twitter, President Joe Biden said he disagreed with the decision and stated affirmative action does not admit unqualified students ahead of qualified students.

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