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Unpacking the Controversial Ban on Affirmative Action in College Admissions

Elizabeth Cay, '24

July 24, 2023


On June 29th, 2023, a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court devastated the education system. In a 6-3 ruling then 6-2 ruling, members of the court have effectively banned the use of race-based admissions, commonly known as Affirmative Action. The 237-page report criticized Harvard and the University of Northern California's Affirmative Action programs, arguing that they violated federal anti-discrimination laws and the fourteenth amendment — which reads, “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”

This decision has sparked heated debates and raised concerns about the implications for diversity and equality in higher education.

Students fighting for Affirmative Action

Caption: Rolling Stone, Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

Briefing the Court's Rationale:

The court's decision centers around the belief that the Affirmative Action programs at Harvard and UNC lacked clear, measurable goals, rendering the use of race in admission decisions unfair. They accused the universities of subjecting students to racial stereotypes and expressed concerns that race might have been used negatively during the admissions process. Consequently, the court ruled that race-based admissions should be discontinued, while still allowing students' racial backgrounds to be considered as a factor in the admissions process, but only in the context of demonstrating their individual stories.

Implications for Diversity and Equality:

The ban on Affirmative Action has been met with both support and opposition. Proponents of the decision argue that it upholds the principles of equal treatment and color blindness under the law. They believe that eliminating race as a factor in college admissions will create a fairer and more merit-based system, where students are evaluated solely on their academic achievements and qualifications. However, the reality is that students of color have been continuously discriminated against and allowing “equal” treatment does not address the systemic issues prevalent in U.S history.

In its entirety, it feels as though the court is able to lawfully overlook one's race if it threatens the privileged stance. Rather than acknowledging the blatant racism and discrimination that is ultimately caused by these deeply rooted issues, the court applauds marginalized students' resilience and endurance throughout these experiences. The outlook is beyond frustrating as the court recognizes the effects of racism and race and then immediately vetoes them both when committed to their false ideals of equity.

Student with "Defend Diversity" Sign

Caption: BBC News, CQ-ROLL CALL INC, Getty Images

Why Does This Matter?

The ban on race-based admissions matters because it has far-reaching implications for the future of diversity and equality in higher education. By effectively ending Affirmative Action, the decision raises concerns about the potential resegregation of colleges and universities. It may disproportionately impact underrepresented minority students, hindering their ability to break the cycle of generational disadvantage.

Additionally, the ruling may influence other educational institutions to follow suit, leading to a nationwide shift away from policies aimed at fostering diversity on campuses. This could further exacerbate the lack of representation for minority students and hinder progress in creating an inclusive learning environment that reflects the broader society.

It may disproportionately impact underrepresented minority students, hindering their ability to break the cycle of generational disadvantage.


The matter at hand extends beyond college admissions; it's at the core of addressing historical and present-day inequalities. The road towards achieving an equitable education system demands affirmative action policies and proper accountability for marginalized students. As we move forward, it is crucial to continue engaging in conversations about how to create a more inclusive and representative educational landscape, while acknowledging centuries of discrimination and disadvantages.

Sources Cited

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