Just as projected, the Supreme Court delivered a landmark decision that resonates through the hallowed halls of Ivy League institutions and beyond, shaking the bedrock of affirmative action in higher education. As a follow-up to my previous 2018 piece about the lawsuit brought by the group Students for Fair Admissions against Harvard University, let’s revisit the issue and examine the implications of the Supreme Court’s decision.
Let’s rewind: The 2022 lawsuit accused Harvard of discrimination against Asian Americans in its admissions process. Spearheaded by conservative activist Ed Blum, the group’s ultimate goal was to eliminate the consideration of race in college admissions, thereby dismantling affirmative action.
Fast forward to today – the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Students for Fair Admissions, resulting in a severe curtailment of affirmative action programs nationwide. It seems Blum’s agenda has triumphed, yet the consequences are much broader than the mere increase in the acceptance rates for Asian Americans at Harvard.
This decision challenges the philosophy of “holistic admissions” that many top-tier schools have held dear. Until now, universities like Harvard emphasized a whole-person philosophy, considering qualities such as kindness, courage, community involvement, and more alongside academic merit. This ruling risks reducing admissions to purely quantitative methods, potentially altering the diverse landscape of campuses nationwide.
The decision also stands to affect African Americans disproportionately. It’s important to note that eliminating affirmative action was never solely about ensuring fairness for Asian Americans; it’s been suspected of harboring an underlying motive of disadvantaging African Americans in the quest for quality education. The fear now is that the fallout will primarily benefit white students rather than the Asian American students whose alleged plight fueled this lawsuit.
The effects of this decision are wide-ranging and insidious. It threatens to divide the country along racial lines further as we previously warned. It’s a divisive move that pits one minority group against another, straining relationships and fueling existing racial tensions.
Worse still, this decision could have repercussions beyond the realm of education. If affirmative action is eradicated in higher education, it might also face challenges in hiring practices, aligning with conservative agendas that seek to diminish diversity in professional sectors.
What’s most disheartening is the question of what improvements this ruling will make for Asian American admissions. If holistic admissions factors remain intact, will we see a notable rise in Asian American admissions? Or have Asian Americans been used as a pawn in a broader ideological battle?
The aftermath of this Supreme Court decision will take time to manifest fully. It is undeniable that the change in direction will have profound and lasting effects on the face of
higher education and, potentially, the corporate world.
As we move forward in this altered landscape, it’s vital to remember why affirmative action was needed in the first place. Its absence is akin to demanding escape from a sinking ship while actively dismantling the lifeboats. Affirmative action served as a countermeasure to socio-economic disadvantages, providing access to high-quality education to those who, due to historical and systematic inequalities, might otherwise struggle to attain it.
If this decision marks the end of affirmative action, it’s critical to consider alternate solutions. The challenges underprivileged communities face won’t disappear with the policy; they’ll just be less visible. The fight for equality and social justice must continue, albeit in a different form. The change may spark greater political involvement and resourcefulness in the affected communities, building resilience.
Let’s not forget, before this resilience takes root there will be a period of upheaval. We must prepare and brace ourselves for this significant transition, staying committed to the ideals of equity and inclusion, no matter the legal or political landscape. In the long run, we may look at this as an advantage as it forces us to change the root cause of why we need affirmative action in the first place: poverty, low-paying jobs, lack of healthcare, and, yes, racism. Some look at this as an opportunity for positive development. However, the people who have pushed this to the supreme court are claiming another victory in the right-wing dismantling of all systems and programs that benefit many African American and Hispanic communities.