While the U.S. Supreme Court has gutted affirmative action in college admissions, the war over gateways to academic opportunities is not over.
In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court declared on Thursday, June 29, that colleges are prohibited from explicitly considering applicants’ race in admissions. The decision will have a significant impact on the methods colleges use to foster diversity within their student populations.
Favoring the conservative nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions, the high court concluded the admissions processes of Harvard University and the University of North Carolina discriminate against white and Asian American applicants. In a 6-3 ruling, the conservative-majority Supreme Court invalidated the admissions policies that granted a slight advantage to applicants from specific underrepresented groups.
Discourse about the ruling followed, with many harping on the possible loss of access to high-quality educational advancement for Black Americans. After all, the purpose of affirmative action is to rectify past discrimination and ensure equal access to opportunities for all.
Now, three Black and Hispanic groups in Boston have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Harvard gives preferential treatment to applicants with familial ties to the university, which disproportionately benefits white and wealthy students.
Lawyers for Civil Rights filed the lawsuit Monday, July 3 on behalf of the Chica Project, the African Community Economic Development of New England, and The Greater Boston Latino Network.
Harvard, being a recipient of federal funds, is obligated to adhere to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It prohibits discrimination in programs receiving federal financial assistance based on factors such as race, color, and national origin. By following Title VI, Harvard must ensure equal treatment and opportunities for all individuals within its programs.
“The students who receive these special preferences (“Donor and Legacy Preferences”) are significantly more likely to be accepted than other applicants, and constitute up to 15% of Harvard’s admitted students,” the complaint alleges.
Legacy admissions have remained entwined in arguments against opposition to affirmative-action policies in higher education, especially given the admission statistics. Many also frown upon what is an undoing of an accomplishment of the civil rights movement.
“Congrats on screwing over other people of color, ma’am! (Particularly those whose efforts in civil rights paved the way for your family to come to America!),” wrote broadcast journalist Soledad O’Brien in response to a celebratory tweet by Asian-American activist Yiatin Chu, who pushed for the reversal.
Sports journalist Jemele Hill also accused Chu of “carrying the water for white supremacy” for backing the affirmative action decision. Both Hill and O’Brien faced a load of backlash for the tweets.
Still, some conservatives upped the ante in claims of reverse racism.
On Thursday after the SCOTUS affirmative action reversal, Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker Rep. Robin Vos announced his desire to eliminate minority undergraduate grants.
“We are reviewing the decision and will introduce legislation to correct the discriminatory laws on the books and pass repeals in the fall,” wrote Vos in response to a tweet from Libertarian-leaning attorney Dan Lennington.