The Supreme Court’s decision in Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) presents a dangerous threat to diversity and the still unfinished fight for racial justice. The Court’s rulings in SFFA v. Harvard College and SFFA v. University of North Carolina threaten the progress that Black and brown people have made in education and professional opportunities. Prohibiting colleges and universities from considering race as one of many factors admissions officers consider will impair the racial and ethnic diversity of university and law school classrooms across the country. By extension, the Court’s decision also will diminish the diversity of the legal profession significantly and stunt the already slow efforts to ensure that lawyers reflect the communities they serve.
By decreasing the number of Black and brown students admitted to colleges and graduate schools across the country, the SFFA decisions will strip students of educational opportunities, all while ignoring decades of Supreme Court precedent that recognized the important corrective value of affirmative action initiatives in higher education.
As an independent membership organization of progressive legal academics, SALT has long been committed to making the legal profession more inclusive. The SFFA cases are of particular interest to SALT because each law school’s ability to admit a strong, diverse class arises from the pool of college graduates. As California’s experience with proposition 209 reveals, the elimination of race-conscious admissions programs demonstrably shrinks the pipeline for professional schools and civic leadership roles for candidates from historically marginalized communities. This threat was highlighted in the amicus brief that SALT joined with Equal Justice Society and California ChangeLawyers. In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor cited to the brief to call attention to California’s failed color-blind admissions process. Indeed, race-conscious admissions programs should be safeguarded to ensure diversity at all levels. Instead, the increasingly politicized Supreme Court has now banned them.
SALT recognizes the urgency of mobilizing to resist these assaults on diversity and racial justice. As we prepare for the challenges ahead, we pledge to work with our membership and allies to advance the Rule of Law, protect marginalized communities, and boldly use the law to promote social justice. We will continue the struggle to pursue protections for equity in education. SALT condemns the SFFA decisions and will continue to defend diversity in the classroom.