In a major decision the US Supreme Court on Thursday struck down race-based admissions at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, effectively prohibiting affirmative action policies long used to raise the number of Black, Hispanic and other underrepresented minority students on American campuses.
This decision by the top court will force many colleges and universities to overhaul their admissions policies, the justices ruled that affirmative action admissions programs violate the U.S. Constitution's promise of equal protection under the law.
As per the media reports the move was agreed by the conservative justices with the liberals in dissent, the court sided with a group called Students for Fair Admissions, founded by an activist Edward Blum, in its appeal of lower court rulings upholding programs used at the two prestigious schools to foster a diverse student population.
The vote counts were 6-3 against UNC and 6-2 against Harvard.
Chief Justice's decision
Chief Justice Roberts wrote that a student "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 color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice."
John Roberts further writes in the majority opinion that while affirmative action was "well-intentioned and implemented in good faith," it cannot last forever, and amounted to unconstitutional discrimination against others.
"The student must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual -- not on the basis of race," Roberts added.
The court said that universities were free to consider an applicant's background -- whether, for example, they grew up experiencing racism -- in weighing their application over more academically qualified students.
But deciding primarily based on whether the applicant is white, Black or other is itself racial discrimination, Roberts wrote.
"Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice," he said.
Against the Decision
In a scathing rebuttal, Justice Sonia Sotomayor accused the majority of being colorblind to the reality of "an endemically segregated society."
"Ignoring race will not equalize a society that is racially unequal. What was true in the 1860s, and again in 1954, is true today: Equality requires acknowledgment of inequality," she wrote.
Democrat vs Republic
After this historic decision, the US president Joe Biden said that the Supreme Court had “done more to unravel basic rights and basic decisions than any court in recent history.”
Speaking at the White House, Democratic President Joe Biden said he strongly disagreed with Thursday's ruling, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, and urged colleges not to abandon their commitment to student diversity. Asked by a reporter if this is "a rogue court," Biden replied, "This is not a normal court."
“I just find it so out of sorts with the basic value system of the American people,” Biden said in an interview.
Meanwhile former President Donald Trump welcomed the move by saying, “A great day for America. People with extraordinary ability and everything else necessary for success, including future greatness for our Country, are finally being rewarded."
US Vice President Kamala Harris said the US Supreme Court's decision to end "affirmative action" in college admissions is "a denial of opportunity".
The US Supreme Court on Thursday struck down race-based admissions at the University of Harvard and the University of North Carolina.
"The highest court in our land just made a decision today on affirmative action and I feel compelled to speak about it. It is in so very many ways a denial of opportunity," the US Vice President said.
According to Harvard, around 40% of U.S. colleges and universities consider race in some fashion. Blum's group in lawsuits filed in 2014 accused UNC of discriminating against white and Asian American applicants and Harvard of bias against Asian American applicants.
Harvard and UNC had said they used race as only one factor in a host of individualized evaluations for admission without quotas - permissible under previous Supreme Court precedents - and that curbing its consideration would cause a significant drop in enrollment of students from under-represented groups.
"Harvard and UNC admissions programs cannot be reconciled with the guarantees of the Equal Protection Clause," Roberts wrote, referring to the constitutional provision.
Universities, Roberts added, may still consider a student's personal essays about "how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration or otherwise." But, Roberts said, "universities may not simply establish through application essays or other means the regime we hold unlawful today."
Affirmative action had withstood Supreme Court scrutiny for decades, most recently in a 2016 ruling involving a white student, backed by Blum, who sued the University of Texas after being rejected for admission.