President Biden Reacts to Supreme Court Barring Affirmative Action in College Admissions

June 29, 2023

President Biden on Thursday said the United States “can’t go back” in its progress of fostering diversity despite the Supreme Court’s decision to bar affirmative action in college admissions. 

“We cannot let this decision be the last word. While the Court can render a decision, it cannot change what America stands for,” Biden stated In a speech from the Roosevelt Room of the White House. “America is an idea unique in the world, an idea of hope and opportunity, of possibilities, giving everyone a fair shot and leaving no one behind. We’ve never fully lived up to it, but we’ve never walked away from it either. We will not walk away from it now.”

He further said he was directing the Department of Education to analyze what practices help to make student bodies more inclusive and diverse and what practices hold that back, such as legacy admissions and other systems “that expand privilege instead of opportunity.”

Hours earlier on Thursday the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to bar affirmative action as a consideration in admissions decisions at both for private and public colleges.

The six Justices in the conservative supermajority ruled that affirmative action decisions violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment to the Constitution while the Court’s three liberals dissented. 

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, overturning a 2003 opinion by Justice Sandra Day O’Conner who at the time wrote that the Equal Protection Clause did not prohibit a university’s narrowly tailored use of race in admissions to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body.

Roberts’ opinion did make one exception in affirmative action considerations: military academies. And Biden noted that the U.S. military is “finest fighting force in the history of the world” because it has been a “model of diversity, and it has not only made our nation better and stronger but safer.”

The President added, “I believe the same is true for our schools.”

Former President Trump, who’s running for reelection in 2024, hailed the Supreme Court decision as a “great day for America” on his Truth Social site.

“This is the ruling everyone was waiting and hoping for and the result was amazing. It will also keep us competitive with the rest of the world,” he added.

By contrast, Biden called upon companies that “are already realizing the value of diversity” to “not use this decision as an excuse to turn away from diversity, either. We can’t go backwards.”

Nine states had already banned the use of race in admissions policies at public colleges and universities before the latest Supreme Court ruling: Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington.

After those policies were enacted, public college admissions of Black and Latino students dropped, with graduation rates dropping in some cases by up to double-digit percentages.

A 2019 survey by the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that about about one-fourth of American schools said race had a “considerable” or “moderate” influence on admissions, while more than half reported that race played no role whatsoever.

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