(LibertySons.org) – In one of several landmark decisions this term, the Supreme Court effectively ended affirmative action in college admissions in the opinion handed down in the consolidated cases of Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v President & Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina on June 29. On August 14, Education Department Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon and the Justice Department (DOJ) Civil Rights Division Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke jointly issued a letter and guidance to college and university administrators to help them maneuver around those SCOTUS rulings.
The information reminded administrators of President Joe Biden’s commitment to maintaining and expanding diverse opportunities for all Americans. It also encouraged educational institutions “to build diverse student bodies,” in part by recognizing individuals who might have overcome hardships or adversity to reach for new educational opportunities.
The agencies also provided guidance in the form of a Questions and Answers document giving a brief overview of the SCOTUS decision that universities’ consideration of applicants’ races in their admission decisions violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The High Court required any institution receiving federal financial aid monies to comply with the Equal Protection Clause requirements.
Through its ruling, the Supreme Court prohibited institutions from using race as the only or primary factor for determining admission suitability. The Court did not prohibit universities and colleges from soliciting essays or opinions from students about their own experiences and how race or ethnicity might have influenced them. Moreover, admissions administrators may consider students’ characteristics, for example, resourcefulness, tenacity, courage, ingenuity, or determination, and how race might have influenced those characteristics.
Additionally, institutions can still perform outreach to and target underserved communities for workshops and camps if the admissions process doesn’t favor race. Instead, the guidance suggested using geographic location, grade-point averages, or opening slots to candidates in certain grade levels.
The advice suggested strategies for retaining diverse student populations, collecting demographic data, and evaluating existing admissions policies, especially those pertaining to legacy admissions, to ensure administrators follow the High Court decision while maintaining campus diversity.
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