June 29, 2023
Today, in a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion in Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, ruling that public universities may no longer base admissions standards on students’ race, which violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
In a 6-3 vote, the historic opinion by the Court reversed earlier judgments by the District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina and the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The case involved challenges to the admissions standards of Harvard College and the University of North Carolina. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion for the Court, and he was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.
In their prevailing opinion, the six justices wrote, “Both programs (Harvard and UNC admissions) lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably negatively employ race, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful endpoints. We have never permitted admissions programs to work in that way, and we will not do so today…. the student must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual – not based on 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 by the color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.”
General Reyes previously joined a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari and an Amicus brief, both led by Oklahoma, in support of Students for Fair Admissions. In the Amicus brief, the attorneys general stated, “…some of Amici States have prohibited racial classifications in university admissions and yet successfully maintain diverse campuses that are inclusive and equally open to students of any race. Respondents’ claim in this case that such diversity is impossible without engaging in racial discrimination is contradicted by the experience of our public universities that provide the highest quality education to all without regard to skin color or ethnicity.”