NWLC Reacts to Supreme Court Overturning Affirmative Action

(Washington, D.C.)  — Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to strike down race-conscious admissions policies, sometimes called “affirmative action,” in a pair of cases previously heard before the Court on October 31, 2022.  

The decision impacts colleges and universities across the country and going forward, admissions decisions will more likely be made in ways that diminish opportunities for students of color in higher education. The Supreme Court’s ruling effectively prohibits schools from considering race as part of their admissions decisions, making it more challenging for historically marginalized communities—including Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students—to access educational opportunities.  

As Justice Sotomayor, joined by Justices Kagan and Jackson, put it in her powerful dissent: this decision “overrules decades of precedent and imposes a superficial rule of race blindness on the Nation.” But “society’s progress toward equality cannot be permanently halted,” and to that end, “universities can and should continue to use all available tools to meet society’s needs for diversity in education.” 

The following is a statement by Emily Martin, Vice President for Education & Workplace Justice at the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC): 

“This decision is a significant step backward in the fight for equal access to education and promoting inclusion in our society. By deeming consideration of race in the admissions process to be unconstitutional, the Court has taken away a crucial tool that colleges and universities have used for decades to promote diversity in higher education and create leaders in our communities. At NWLC, we know that diversity in classrooms and on campuses more generally is crucial for the success of all students, as each student benefits from exposure to a variety of perspectives and experiences, specifically including from women of color. 

As forcefully outlined by the dissenting Justices Sotomayor, Kagan and Jackson, the work of addressing racism in our society is far from over, and the majority opinion gets it simply wrong on the facts and the law.  

We are in solidarity with the college and university students still to come who will be harmed by this outcome. We will fight alongside students and work with policymakers to ensure schools continue to prioritize diversity and find ways to ensure that all students can thrive.”