Fourth Estate/Erica Munisar

SCOTUS rolls back on Affirmative Action. What’s next?


It doesn’t matter if you’ve been reading the news or not, the latest U.S. Supreme Court decision is an important one to understand. On June 29, the Supreme Court recently ruled that racial background should not be considered during college admissions.

Thus, I am going to address what that implies for the student population in America. In a simple statement, we were progressing towards racial equality by implementing affirmative action. But, inconsistencies between racially discriminative reality and hope for equal access for all still persist. Hence, there is a need to bring everyone at par by focusing on the new reality of  “equality of opportunity” over “equality of outcome.”

Personally witnessing the social and political landscape in India and America, historical experiences of oppression of minority groups are widespread. In the U.S., this is evident in the higher poverty rate and lower education levels in the African American/Black population in contrast to the white and Asian population as claimed by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2021. 

In both countries, millions of people from disadvantaged communities have been denied basic resources of life. At the same time, people have also risen to the top based on determination and constitutional rights expanded from past judgements.

Around the same lines, Students for Fair Admissions claimed during the case that University of North Carolina and Harvard violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. They argued that white and Asian students were discriminated against to give admissions to minority groups. 

Referring to Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003 which legalized consideration of race as a factor in college admissions, Justice Day O’Connor concluded that within 25 years, racial consideration in college admissions may no longer be necessary. But have we, in 2023, reached that level of reality where we all have access to the same resources and opportunities at all levels in life?  

Following the recent Supreme Court decision, what’s the next big thing for the U.S. post-affirmative action? 

As history repeats itself, we can learn from what University of California, Berkeley did following a state ban on racial consideration in college admissions in 1996. After observing a drop in Black and Hispanic admissions, the admissions team had to do a 180 degree turn on the review process. An applicant’s background study would start with their upbringing, their life experiences, resources that were accessible to them and then their test scores or GPA.

Efforts to bridge the gap in racial disparities may still come to a point where the majority might become the minority as colleges become more diverse. The solution to balancing equality and diversity lies in addressing a fundamental aspect which is availability and accessibility for the minority groups. 

We should expect to witness more holistic, merit-based admissions for all people of color. There will be a rise in university efforts nationwide to increase student diversity through race-neutral ways. More funding and oversight will continue to be offered so that the socio-economically disadvantaged communities become capable of competing at par with the majority population. 

No matter the reality, we will find a way to ensure diversity as well as equality. My urge for you is to give regard to each person, from all racial and social backgrounds. As said by UC Berkeley regarding their past experiences, “Although it takes work and commitment, academic excellence and diversity is possible.”