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President Crossman addresses U.S. Supreme Court decision on race-conscious admissions

University News | 06.30.23

Adler University President Raymond E. Crossman, Ph.D., responds to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on race-conscious admissions.

This week, the United States Supreme Court decided to prohibit the use of race as a part of holistic assessment for college and university admissions. I believe the decision is a setback for higher education, for democracy in the U.S., and for the advancement of an equitable and inclusive society. The Court’s ruling reverses decades of legal precedent which affirmed a diverse student body to be a “compelling state interest” and allowed higher education to use race-conscious admissions to fulfill that interest.

The decision will likely ensure U.S. colleges and universities are less diverse and less accessible to people who have faced generations of discrimination and exclusion. The diversity of colleges and universities has improved since the 1960s when affirmative action emerged, but the U.S. still struggles to enroll students from underrepresented groups, especially Black, Latinx, and Native students. Nine states have more recently prohibited race-based affirmative action in public institutions, and student diversity has consistently and severely lagged in those states since those bans were enacted.

The decision will also injure educational excellence, as over 40 years of research has demonstrated that diverse classrooms better prepare all students for employment, citizenry, and life in an increasingly diverse nation and world.

Justice Sotomayor wrote, in her dissent, “Today, this court stands in the way and rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress. It holds that race can no longer be used in a limited way in college admissions to achieve such critical benefits. In so holding, the court cements a superficial rule of colorblindness as a constitutional principle in an endemically segregated society where race has always mattered and continues to matter.”

Justice Jackson observed, “With let-them-eat-cake obliviousness, today, the majority pulls the ripcord and announces ‘colorblindness for all’ by legal fiat. But deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life.” Jackson also wrote, in noting that the Court exempted military schools and academies from today’s decision, “The court has come to rest on the bottom-line conclusion that racial diversity in higher education is only worth potentially preserving insofar as it might be needed to prepare Black Americans and other underrepresented minorities for success in the bunker, not the boardroom (a particularly awkward place to land, in light of the history the majority opts to ignore).”

I agree with these dissenting justices. I am sad and angry, as I expect are many of you.

The decision will not directly impact the current enrollment practices of Adler University, because we do not utilize race in admissions decisions, and we have worked in myriad other ways to diversify our student body to the current composition of 46 percent people of color. Our dedication to the value of diversity and to securing a diverse student body will remain steadfast.

But for people of color, and for many in our university community that is deeply invested in social justice, today’s decision will be experienced as an assault on historically disadvantaged people and on promises of equity and opportunity for all. Today’s decision may also reverberate beyond higher education, sending chilling effects or emboldening attacks on wider diversity efforts.

While the Supreme Court decision is deeply disheartening, the path toward racial and social justice is not linear and will continue. In the coming weeks, we will share information about the continuing fight for policies and practices that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. We’re considering education through Common Hours and invitations to protest and advocate. We also welcome your suggestions, which can be sent to my office or to the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. We share a collective responsibility as Adlerians to stand for justice.

President Raymond Crossman, Ph.D.
Adler University

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