The US Supreme Court on Thursday banned the use of race and ethnicity in university admissions scrapping a decades-old practice that boosted educational opportunities for African-Americans and other minorities.
The top court held, in a 6-3 opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, that Harvard University and the University of North Carolina’s admissions programs violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
The decision will have long-standing implications over the racial makeup of colleges and universities and the types of opportunities students of color are afforded.
The ruling against “affirmative action,” delivered by a court heavily influenced by three justices appointed by Donald Trump during his presidency, drew cheers from conservatives but was blasted by progressives.
President Joe Biden expressed his “severe disappointment,” and criticized the justices as “not a normal court.”
“Discrimination still exists in America,” he said at the White House. “I believe our colleges are stronger when they are racially diverse. Our nation is stronger because we are tapping into the full range of talent in this nation.”
Barack Obama, the United States’ first and only Black president, lamented in personal terms the scrapping of the affirmative action policy, which had “allowed generations of students like Michelle and me to prove we belonged.”
“Affirmative action was never a complete answer in the drive towards a more just society. But for generations of students who had been systematically excluded from most of America’s key institutions—it gave us the chance to show we more than deserved a seat at the table. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent decision, it’s time to redouble our efforts,” Obama said in a tweet.
Former first lady Michelle Obama said in a separate statement that “my heart breaks for any young person out there who’s wondering what their future holds — and what kinds of chances will be open to them.”
Vice President Kamala Harris shared her “deep disappointment” after the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action.
“It is in so very many ways a denial of opportunity… It is being blind to history, blind to empirical evidence about disparities, and blind to the strength that diversity brings to classrooms, to boardrooms,” she said.
Trump said the ruling marked “a great day for America.”
“This is the ruling everyone was waiting and hoping for and the result was amazing. It will also keep us competitive with the rest of the world. Our greatest minds must be cherished and that’s what this wonderful day has brought. We’re going back to all merit-based—and that’s the way it should be!” he said in a statement to ABC News.
Republican presidential hopeful Mike Pence hailed the decision, saying there is no place for discrimination based on race in the United States.
“I am pleased that the Supreme Court has put an end to this egregious violation of civil and constitutional rights in admissions processes, which only served to perpetuate racism,” said Pence. “I am honored to have played a role in appointing three of the Justices that ensured today’s welcomed decision, and as President I will continue to appoint judges who will strictly apply the law rather than twisting it to serve woke and progressive ends.”
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a top contender for the presidency, wrote in a tweet that “college admissions should be based on merit and applicants should not be judged on their race or ethnicity.”
“The Supreme Court has correctly upheld the Constitution and ended discrimination by colleges and universities,” he added.
Former Ambassador to the UN and presidential hopeful Nikki Haley also hailed the decision, stating that “picking winners and losers based on race is fundamentally wrong”.
Haley, who is the daughter of Indian immigrants, added, “This decision will help every student—no matter their background—have a better opportunity to achieve the American Dream.”
Senate Majority Leader and Democrat Chuck Schumer called the majority’s “misguided” ruling a “giant roadblock in our country’s march toward racial justice.
“Nevertheless, we will not be daunted or deterred by this decision and we reaffirm our commitment to fighting for equal educational opportunities for all,” said Schumer, as quoted by ABC News.