President Joe Biden weighed in Thursday (June 29) on the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on college admissions.
“The court has effectively ended affirmative action in college admissions and I strongly, strongly disagree with the court's decision because affirmative action is so misunderstood,” Biden said from the White House hours after the high court released its ruling that reversed decades of legal precedence.
Biden said many people wrongly believe that affirmative action is a means to admit unqualified students to colleges and universities. “This is not how college admissions work," the president stated. He explained that all students must first meet the college’s admissions standards before the school can consider other factors, including race.
The court ruled that admissions programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina violated the Constitution’s equal protection guarantees by relying on the race of applicants.
A conservative group calling itself Students for Fair Admission, which accused the schools of holding Asian-American students to a higher educational standard than it does African American or Hispanic students, sued both universities over their race-conscious admissions programs.
"Both programs lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful endpoints. We have never permitted admissions programs to work in that way, and we will not do so today," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the 6-3 conservative majority, according to ABC News.
The ruling is a major setback for schools that use race-conscious admissions programs to achieve a diverse student body. Liberals argue that this tool is needed to remedy systemic and historic race discrimination. But conservatives say college admissions should be colorblind.
Looking ahead, Biden urged schools not to abandon their commitment to diversity and offered “guidance to our nation’s colleges” in the aftermath of the court’s ruling.
He recommended that colleges consider the adversity faced by qualified applicants, including their family’s lack of financial resources, the quality of their high school and the racial discrimination they had to overcome.
“Discrimination still exists in America,” Biden emphasized. “Today's decision does not change that. It’s a simple fact that if a student had to overcome adversity on their path to education, the college should recognize and value that. Our nation’s colleges and universities should be engines of expanding opportunity through upward mobility.”
The administration outlined several steps it will take to support schools that want to pursue admissions diversity in ways that comply with the high court’s ruling.
Among those steps, the Department of Education and Department of Justice will provide resources within the next 45 days to colleges and universities that address lawful admissions practices. The Education Department will also host a national summit in July on equal opportunity in postsecondary education.
In a statement, Vice President Kamala Harris said the Supreme Court’s decision “is a step backward for our nation” that hampers underrepresented students from accessing opportunities to reach their potential, as well as a setback for students’ college experience.
“It is well established that all students benefit when classrooms and campuses reflect the incredible diversity of our Nation,” Harris’ statement read. “Colleges and universities provide opportunities for students to interact with Americans from all walks of life and learn from one another. By making our schools less diverse, this ruling will harm the educational experience for all students.”
Biden said diversity is one of America’s greatest strengths. He pointed to the U.S. military as a model of diversity that has made the nation better.
“I've always believed that the promise of America is big enough for everyone to succeed, and that every generation of Americans, we have benefited by opening the doors of opportunity just a little bit wider to include those who have been left behind,” the president said.
“I believe our colleges are stronger when they are racially diverse. Our nation is stronger because we are tapping into the full range of talent in this nation.”