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Affirmative Action: Fostering Equality and Promoting Inclusive Education

By Jowet Haile



Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images


In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling June 2023, affirmative action has become a prominent topic of discussion in the field of education. As a startup committed to enhancing the mental health and well-being of all students, we find the Court’s decision disheartening. By analyzing the history and impact of affirmative action, we can shed light on the importance of it in fostering equality in education and creating opportunities for underrepresented individuals.


Affirmative action refers to procedures used by universities and colleges to remove unlawful discrimination from the admission process and to alleviate the impacts of discrimination in previous generations of applicants for educational programs and employment opportunities. For decades, affirmative action has provided many minority students with hope and the ability to dream of educational opportunities unimaginable to their ancestors.


Recently, demands for race-neutral university admissions have been on the rise. Edward Blum, an adamant advocate for race-neutral admissions, founded Students for Fair Admissions and has been a legal voice challenging race-conscious admission policies. Students for Fair Admissions recently filed two cases against universities regarding affirmative action. Harvard University and the University of North Carolina asserted that their admissions procedures do not discriminate against any race, denying claims of discrimination against Asian and white Americans. However, the court ruled in favor of the Students for Fair Admission.


This late June ruling in 2023 was quite disappointing for marginalized students. Chief Justice John Roberts stated, “The Harvard and U.N.C. admissions programs cannot be reconciled with the guarantees

of the Equal Protection Clause. Both programs lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful endpoints.” Meanwhile Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, encouraging universities to “use all available tools to meet society’s needs for diversity in education. Despite the Court’s unjustified exercise of power, the opinion today will serve only to highlight the Court’s own impotence in the face of an America whose cries for equality resound.”


To be frank, affirmative action procedures have not taken rightfully earned spots away from other racial groups in the admissions pool. Instead, race-conscious admissions have stimulated a diverse student body and workforce, which is essential to the progression of this nation. Chief Justice Roberts’ resolution is ignorant of the lack of socioeconomic and supplemental educational resources accessible to students of

color. Resultantly, various institutions have filed amicus curiae briefs advocating for the constitutionality of affirmative action.


To fully comprehend the significance of affirmative action, we must acknowledge its historical roots. The term itself was legally introduced in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy in Executive Order 10925, which highlights the unconstitutionality of discrimination. Kennedy stated, “The contractor will take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.” ‘Affirmative action’ was first used in this executive order to provide equal employment opportunities. Since then it has expanded to include educational opportunities. The Civil Rights Act of 1965 passed under President Lyndon B. Johnson also mentioned affirmative action, but a related case was not taken up by the Supreme Court until 1978 in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. At the time, the University of California School of Medicine at Davis admitted 100 students, reserving 16 slots for students of color. A white male applicant was rejected despite compelling scores, and he claimed the special admissions quota discriminated against him, causing his rejection. The Supreme Court of 1978 decided that racial admission quotas were unconstitutional. However, the justices used the Fourteenth Amendment to defend the purpose of affirmative action programs and encouraged their continuance to create diverse academic spheres without quotas. In 2003, two Supreme Court cases versus the University of Michigan established that institutions must use strict scrutiny in race-based admissions, as race cannot be the defining factor in rejection or acceptance.


Challenging precedent, the Court’s recent ruling will drastically affect future student bodies within higher education. Many people consider affirmative action exclusively in regard to undergraduate affairs, but this ruling will impact much more than that. Minorities are already misrepresented in white-collar career fields. Unfortunately, the removal of affirmative action can potentially lead to a decline in marginalized students admitted into law, medical, graduate, business, and doctorate programs and schools. Colorblind admissions ignore the systemic and socioeconomic barriers experienced by minorities. Despite its removal, affirmative action was undoubtedly a vital means of rectifying historical discrimination and fostering equality. As a society, we must recognize the value of diversity and support programs that aid the creation of a more inclusive and equitable world, especially for underrepresented groups.


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