U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down race-conscious student admissions programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, during brief remarks in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, June 29, 2023.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden hammered the Supreme Court over its Thursday ruling striking down the use of affirmative action in college admissions, saying the decision “walked away from decades of precedent.”
But he urged schools not to stop considering racial adversity for applicants altogether.
“We cannot let this decision be the last word,” Biden said in a White House address. “The court can render a decision but it cannot change what America stands for.”
The Supreme Court ruled the affirmative action policies of Harvard University and the University of North Carolina to be unconstitutional. The majority opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts said the universities’ policies violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
Harvard’s and UNC’s affirmative action programs “unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful end points,” Roberts wrote.
In her dissenting opinion, Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson said the majority was “turning back the clock” on affirmative action.
“With let-them-eat-cake obliviousness, today, the majority pulls the ripcord and announces ‘colorblindness for all’ by legal fiat,” Jackson wrote. “But deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life.”
Biden in his speech proposed colleges still take into the account the amount of adversity a student has faced in their life.
“They should not abandon their commitment to ensure student bodies of diverse backgrounds and experience,” Biden said. “What I propose is consideration of a new standard for colleges to take into account the adversity a student has overcome when selecting among qualified applications.”
The president quoted the opinion, which noted colleges should not be prohibited from considering how race has affected an applicant’s life.
“Discrimination still exists in America. Today’s decision has not changed that,” Biden said. “Today for too many schools the only people who benefit from the system are the wealthy and the well connected. The odds have been stacked against working people for much too long. We need a higher education system that works for everyone.”
The Department of Education released a fact sheet giving guidance to colleges and universities on how to move forward following the ruling. It advised colleges to consider a student’s financial background, where they grew up and went to high school and other areas of hardship they have experienced including “racial discrimination.”