Roundtable Responds: U.S. Supreme Court Ends Race-Based Affirmative Action in Higher Education


WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the use of race-based preferences in college admissions, writing “the Harvard and UNC admissions programs cannot be reconciled with the guarantees of the Equal Protection Clause.” In an opinion issued in two cases challenging affirmative action, Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina (6-3 decision) and Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College (6-2 decision), Chief Justice John Roberts stated: 

“Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it… 

“In other words, the student must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual—not on the basis of race. Many universities have for too long done just the opposite. And in doing so, they have concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.” 

Following the ruling, Philanthropy Roundtable President and CEO Christie Herrera released the following statement:  

“Our nation’s founding principles are rooted in protecting individual rights and freedoms. And while our country has struggled to meet this promise in the past, we have made enormous progress in recent decades to secure equal treatment under the law for all Americans. 

“Building pathways to opportunity for disadvantaged individuals is a valiant effort that we all, and especially those in philanthropy, should be invested in. However, in our society today, the practice of systemically discriminating against some students in higher education to advance others based on their race or ethnicity does not advance the goal of creating a just society, and it is not an effective way to provide opportunity for those in need. The Roundtable hopes today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision will be a catalyst for more innovative ideas and concrete resources that provide meaningful support to help people realize their full, unique potential, whether in or out of the classroom.” 

Philanthropy Roundtable Adjunct Senior Fellow Patrice Onwuka, who works on the Roundtable’s True Diversity initiative, released the following statement in response to the news:  

“As a society, we cannot remedy past discrimination by creating new inequities; otherwise, we lock ourselves into a vicious cycle of injustice. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that educational institutions must not infringe on the civil rights of one group of students based on their race regardless of whether some view the desired outcome as virtuous.  

“Every child in America deserves access to a quality education regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin or class. Education is not only an equalizer, but it anchors the ladder of economic opportunity. If we want to ensure that disadvantaged children, including those from minority backgrounds, can compete for spaces in higher education, we should accelerate school choice efforts and be committed to holding all kids to the same high standards.” 

For more from Patrice Onwuka on this topic, see her Philanthropy Roundtable research on the effectiveness of diversity quotas on corporate boards in “Improving Board Diversity: Lessons from Sweden and Norway.” She has also written about the pitfalls of charitable organizations collecting demographic data and using it to make philanthropic decisions. Read more here.  

Philanthropy Roundtable’s True Diversity initiative is an equality-based, holistic framework for embracing diversity. It values every person as a unique individual and empowers charitable organizations with the freedom and flexibility to advance their missions and help those in need. Learn more at TrueDiversity.org 

Editor’s Note: This release was updated to reflect the independent vote counts in the two separate cases.

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