The Supreme Court issued a divided ruling on a pair of challenges to affirmative action policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, with potential implications across higher education and beyond.
The court ruled against the programs — saying in the majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts that the systems in place "lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful end points, those admissions programs cannot be reconciled with the guarantees of the Equal Protection Clause."
But the court did not rule out race entirely in admission programs, adding, "nothing prohibits universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected the applicant’s life, so long as that discussion is concretely tied to a quality of character or unique ability that the particular applicant can contribute to the university."
Latest news from the Supreme Court's rulings
- The Supreme Court released opinions on three issues, including affirmative action. More opinions are expected tomorrow.
- Elite schools had been anxiously preparing for the court's ruling on the use of affirmative action in the admissions process.
- The court has unexpectedly handed wins to liberal advocates on election law, minority voting rights and Native American issues, but those rulings were not conclusive, meaning the issues could return to the conservative-majority court, with potentially very different outcomes.
- The court today also ruled unanimously in favor of an evangelical Christian mail carrier who sued the U.S. Postal Service for not accommodating his request to have Sundays off.
- Pending rulings expected Friday include one on President Joe Biden's student loan debt forgiveness program.
Harris blasts ruling as a 'denial of opportunity'
Vice President Harris suggested the Supreme Court's ruling on affirmative action undermines the importance of equal opportunity in remarks this afternoon.
The court did not "fully understand the importance of equal opportunity for the people of our country," Harris said during a moderated discussion at the Global Black Economic Forum at the Essence Festival of Culture in New Orleans. "And it is, in so very many ways, a denial of opportunity," she added.
Harris also rejected as a "complete misnomer" a narrative suggesting the ruling was about so-called colorblindness in admissions.
"In fact, it is about being blind to history, being blind to data, being blind to empirical evidence about disparities, being blind to the strength that diversity brings to classrooms to boardrooms," she said.
Court has 'gone out of its way' to unravel basic rights, Biden says
In an interview on MSNBC, Biden elaborated on earlier remarks suggesting that the Supreme Court was "not a normal court," telling MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace that it was unmoored in its efforts to "unravel basic rights and basic decisions."
The court has "gone out of its way" in ruling against a number of issues that had precedent for decades, Biden said.
Biden opposes expanding Supreme Court: It will 'politicize the court forever'
In an interview with MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, Biden stated that although he believes that the conservative majority on the court "may do too much harm" he opposes expanding the court because it will "politicize the court forever in a way that is not healthy."
Sotomayor and Jackson write strong dissents on affirmative action
Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson, the Supreme Court’s first Latina and first Black female justices, both argued in their dissents that society is not “color blind” and race-conscious admissions have advanced constitutional equality.
Considering that Sotomayor has previously described herself as a “perfect affirmative action baby,’’ her 69-page dissent in the Harvard case did not go unnoticed.
In deciding “that race can no longer be used in a limited way in college admissions,” the Supreme Court effectively “cements a superficial rule of colorblindness as a constitutional principle in an endemically segregated society where race has always mattered and continues to matter,” Sotomayor wrote.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona previews administration plans after decision
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona laid out a 45-day plan in response to the Supreme Court decision in an appearance on MSNBC. He said the agency will communicate information to students, teachers and school administrators with the goal of "providing support to universities" and "making it clear to families and students that we want them on our campuses."
The plan includes providing "guidance around the SCOTUS decision, making sure college presidents know what it means and doesn't mean," holding a national education summit in July, and issuing a report in September with guidelines for universities to follow in their admissions process.
VP Harris: Decision is a 'step backward for our nation'
Vice President Kamala Harris called the ruling "a step backward for our nation."
"It rolls back long-established precedent and will make it more difficult for students from underrepresented backgrounds to have access to opportunities that will help them fulfill their full potential," Harris said in a statement.
She added that everyone benefits when campuses reflect the nation's diversity.
"By making our schools less diverse, this ruling will harm the educational experience for all students," Harris wrote.
She ended by saying that people must work "with ever more urgency" to ensure young people have an "opportunity to thrive."
Police say 'all clear' on suspicious package at the Court
After Supreme Court and U.S. Capitol police moved protesters and media due to a suspicious package on the court steps, the situation is now "all clear."
AOC criticizes court over affirmative action ruling
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said that if the Supreme Court was "serious about their ludicrous 'colorblindness' claims, they would have abolished legacy admissions, aka affirmative action for the privileged."
"70% of Harvard’s legacy applicants are white. SCOTUS didn’t touch that — which would have impacted them and their patrons," she tweeted.
Biden: 'This is not a normal court.'
Biden was asked whether this Supreme Court is a "rogue court" as he left the Roosevelt room following his remarks.
"This is not a normal court," he replied.
Biden did not respond to a question about whether there should be a term limit for justices.
'A severe disappointment': Biden on decision
Biden said he strongly disagrees with the Supreme Court's affirmative action decision, saying that one of the greatest strengths of America is the country's diversity.
"I know today's court decision is a severe disappointment for so many people, including me, but we cannot let the decision be a permanent setback for the country," he said in remarks at the White House. "We need to keep an open door of opportunities. We need to remember that diversity is our strength."
He went on to say that affirmative action has been misunderstood.
"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 opportunities just a little bit wider to include those who have been left behind," Biden said. "I believe our colleges are stronger when they are racially diverse."
Biden proposed that colleges take into account the adversity a student has overcome when selecting among qualified applicants. He directed the Department of Education to analyze what practices help higher education build a more inclusive and diverse student body.
Attorney General Garland blasts affirmative action ruling
Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement on Thursday that the Supreme Court's affirmative action decision "undercuts efforts" by universities to create a diverse environment for students.
"It will significantly set back efforts to advance educational opportunity for all Americans. And it upends nearly 50 years of precedent.
“The Department of Justice remains committed to promoting student diversity in higher education using all available legal tools," Garland said.
The attorney general added that in the coming weeks, the Justice Department will coordinate with the Department of Education "to provide resources to college and universities on what admissions practices and programs remain lawful following the Court’s decision."
Thomas' alma mater releases statement condemning decision
The College of the Holy Cross, a small liberal arts school in Massachusetts and the alma mater of Justice Thomas, sent an email to alumni expressing their disappointment with the court's decision. The statement, which did not refer to the justice by name, criticized the court's holding that college admission is "a zero-sum game" and promised that the college would continue to "create diverse and inclusive student communities."
Capitol Police investigating a suspicious package near the court
The U.S. Capitol Police are investigating a suspicious package on the steps of the Supreme Court, the agency said in an alert. "Staff and other personnel are directed to AVOID THIS AREA until further notice."
Police have evacuated the sidewalk in front of the court. Protestors and media have all been pushed across the street.
A Supreme Court spokeswoman had no comment.
Democratic governors voice opposition to ruling
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat and a former teacher, tweeted his opposition to the decision and support for diversity programs.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, also a Democrat, went further in his criticism, writing that opponents of affirmative action want to "whitewash our nation's history" and "bring back the era of book bans and segregated campuses."
Biden briefed by counsel on affirmative action decision, convenes meeting with senior staff
Biden was briefed this morning by legal counsel after he saw the breaking news reports on the affirmative action ruling, a White House official said.
Biden then convened a meeting with members of his senior staff closely working on the issue, the official added.
DeSantis' campaign pokes fun at Trump after affirmative action ruling
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign jabbed his GOP presidential rival Trump over his previous comments on affirmative action.
In a tweet, DeSantis’ campaign posted a clip of Trump’s wide-ranging interview with NBC's “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd in 2015. The then-GOP candidate said he was “fine with affirmative action,” noting “we’ve lived with it for a long time, and I lived with it for a long time.”
Earlier today Trump, who appointed three conservative justices during his term, praised the affirmative decision as a “great day for America.”
Calif. reparations report's education recommendations won't be affected
California Reparations Task Force chair Kamilah Moore says their final report will include “numerous policy prescriptions in the areas of education.”
“The only note I’ll say,” she added, “is one of the recommendations is to provide free college tuition at public colleges and universities, for descendants of slaves, not for all Black people, but for descendants of slaves. So to that end, that recommendation remains unaffected by SCOTUS decision today because it’s not a race-based admissions preference.”
Dem Rep. Hank Johnson slams 'Justice "Harlan Crow" Thomas'
Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., criticized the court's decision and specifically the concurring opinion of Justice Clarence Thomas, whom he referred to as "Justice 'Harlan Crow' Thomas," a reference to ongoing investigations into gifts Thomas received from Republican billionaire donor Harlan Crow.
Johnson also reaffirmed his support for expanding the court, calling for Congress to pass a bill he proposed with other Democrats to do so in May.
Bernie Sanders condemns affirmative action ruling
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., tweeted a rebuke of the Supreme Court's ruling on affirmative action and called on higher education institutions to take action to combat racism.
Footnote: Affirmative action decision doesn't apply to military academies
A footnote in today’s majority opinion specifies that the court’s decision on affirmative action does not apply to military academies:
The United States as amicus curiae contends that race-based admissions programs further compelling interests at our Nation’s military academies. No military academy is a party to these cases, however, and none of the courts below addressed the propriety of race-based admissions systems in that context. This opinion also does not address the issue, in light of the potentially distinct interests that military academies may present.Footnote in supreme court's majority opinion
Harvard says it will comply with decision
Harvard said it would comply with the court's decision in a letter to the school's community.
"We write today to reaffirm the fundamental principle that deep and transformative teaching, learning, and research depend upon a community comprising people of many backgrounds, perspectives, and lived experiences," the letter read. "That principle is as true and important today as it was yesterday."
The letter went on to affirm that "diversity and difference are essential to academic excellence," and the student body should reflect "multiple facets of human experience."
"In the weeks and months ahead, drawing on the talent and expertise of our Harvard community, we will determine how to preserve, consistent with the Court’s new precedent, our essential values," the letter read.
It was signed by 18 Harvard leaders, including the president and school deans.
Ron DeSantis praises affirmative action ruling
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a 2024 Republican presidential candidate, tweeted his agreement with the court's ruling.
Follow live coverage of the California reparation task force report release.
Sotomayor's dissent: 'Equality requires acknowledgment of inequality.'
In Sotomayor's dissenting opinion, she explained that "entrenched racial inequality remains a reality today" in society, as well as for Harvard and UNC.
"Ignoring race will not equalize a society that is racially unequal," she wrote. "What was true in the 1860s, and again in 1954, is true today: Equality requires acknowledgment of inequality."
Sotomayor calls affirmative action decision 'devastating'
In her nearly 20-minute dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor railed against Justice Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice John Roberts, mentioning both of them by name several times. She said it was “profoundly wrong” and “devastating” to see the court overrule 50 years of precedent.
“Today the court stands in the way and rolls back decades of precedent and progress,” Sotomayor said.
Sotomayor said this decision boils down to the idea that a person’s skin color may play a role under U.S. law when they are under suspicion, but it cannot play a role in admission to a learning environment.
“Pursuit of diversity will go on, despite the court,” Sotomayor said.
She ended by quoting Martin Luther King Jr: “We shall overcome.”
The session ended with the bang of a gavel.
Calif. Reparations Task Force says Supreme Court should read its report
After two years of work, the California Reparations Task Force releases its final report today. Their hope is that their findings will set the groundwork for reparations throughout the country.
Task force member Cheryl Grills said the Supreme Court should read the report.
“The Supreme Court has decided that affirmative action is not appropriate for this country. I would encourage the Supreme Court to read the intro report," Grills said.
“I would encourage them to read the final report and to understand that the legacy of enslavement and the ongoing harms are with us to this very day. And so this country is disingenuous. First, they use race to exclude us and now they’re refusing to use race to include us.”
The task force added that it had prepared in advance for the ruling from the Supreme Court and it wouldn't affect the report's findings.
Thomas calls affirmative action 'cancerous,' as Jackson looks straight ahead
Justice Clarence Thomas read his concurring opinion from the bench, announcing that Grutter v. Bollinger — the 2003 ruling that said race could be considered as a factor in the admissions — “for all intents and purposes, is overruled.”
“These policies fly in the face of our colorblind constitution,” Thomas said. “Two discriminatory wrongs can not make a right.”
“The racial boxes into which universities place applicants are little more than stereotypes,” Thomas said. “This is not the 1860s, or the 1960s.”
He called the way UNC and Harvard were operating “cancerous to young minds.”
During Thomas’ lengthy concurrence, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman to serve on the court, did not look toward, or make eye contact once with Thomas, the second Black man to serve on the court. She sat in her seat at the end of the bench, looking straight ahead, taking occasional sips of her coffee.
She appeared to be visibly angry.
Key civil rights groups blast affirmative action decisions
America’s leading civil rights organizations condemned the conservative-dominated Supreme Court for ending affirmative action programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina on Thursday, with one top group accusing the high court of turning back the clock on the nation’s history of racial progress.
"We will not allow hate-inspired people in power to turn back the clock and undermine our hard-won victories. The tricks of America’s dark past will not be tolerated,” NAACP president and chief executive Derrick Johnson said in a statement.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, the president and founder of the National Action Network, said in a statement that the Supreme Court “stuck a dagger in the back of Black America.” Sharpton, who hosts a weekend news program on MSNBC, defended race-conscious admissions policies as a bulwark against centuries of racial injustices and social inequalities.
Here’s what it was like inside the court today
With the bang of a gavel and an “Oyez, Oyez,” by the marshal of the United States Supreme Court, the chief justice and associate justices entered the courtroom, and sat at their seats. All nine justices were present.
In announcing the affirmative action decision, Chief Justice John Roberts reminded that the case was about whether Harvard and UNC’s admissions policies were admissible under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. “We conclude that they are not,” Roberts said.
Roberts talked about the importance of an eventual “endpoint,” as it relates to race-based admissions. He ran through what Harvard and UNC identified as goals to reach, which included preparing graduates for a pluralistic society and growing future leaders, but Roberts said the court would have no way of evaluating whether those goals were attained.
“The University all but said trust us when it comes to making race-based decisions,” Roberts said. “We disagree.”
Roberts went on to suggest that “outright racial balancing,” as he called it, “is patently unconstitutional,” and suggested admission should be based on “substance, not shadows.”
Trump commends affirmative action ruling: 'Great day for America'
Former President Donald Trump, who appointed three conservative justices during his term, praised the affirmative action decision in a statement.
“This is a great day for America," Trump, who is seeking another presidential term, said. "People with extraordinary ability and everything else necessary for success, including future greatness for our country, are finally being rewarded."
"This is the ruling everyone was waiting and hoping for and the result was amazing," he added. "It will also keep us competitive with the rest of the world. Our greatest minds must be cherished and that’s what this wonderful day has brought. We’re going back to all merit-based — and that’s the way it should be!”
Biden to deliver remarks after ruling
Biden will now deliver remarks at 12:30 p.m. ET on the Supreme Court's affirmative action decision, according to an updated White House schedule.
He will speak in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.
Marianne Williamson says affirmative action ruling is a 'step backward'
Marianne Williamson, who's running again for the Democratic presidential nomination, said in a statement that the high court's affirmative decision is "an unfortunate step backward in America’s commitment to social justice."
Williamson, however, said that the deeper problem is that such a program ever had to exist in the first place.
"Systemic racism begins in early childhood in the United States, and dealing with it there is how we will override the deepening racial injustices only exacerbated by today’s decision," she said. "Unequal opportunity in childhood education is where the problem begins and where we will ultimately solve it. My commitment is to radically increase America’s commitment to every American child — to make every public school a palace of learning, culture and the arts."
The court also ruled for a Christian USPS worker who wouldn't work Sundays
The Supreme Court on Thursday made it easier for employees to seek religious accommodations in a case involving a lawsuit brought by an evangelical Christian mail carrier who asked not to work on Sundays.
The case involved a claim brought by a Pennsylvania man, Gerald Groff, who says the U.S. Postal Service could have granted his request that he be spared Sunday shifts based on his religious belief that it is a day of worship and rest.
His case will now return to lower courts for further litigation.
Groff argued that it was too difficult for employees to bring religious claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits workplace discrimination on various fronts, including religion.
McConnell says students can now 'get a fair shot at college'
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., praised the Supreme Court's affirmative action decision, calling it a "long-overdue step."
"Today’s rulings make clear that colleges may not continue discriminating against bright and ambitious students based on the color of their skin," McConnell said in a statement. "Most Americans agree that racial discrimination should play no part in the college admissions process. Now that the Court has reaffirmed that commonsense position, students can get a fair shot at college and the American dream on their merits."
N.C. Gov. Cooper: 'Decision undermines decades of progress"
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, condemned the court's ruling against the University of North Carolina's use of affirmative action in admissions, saying "this decision undermines decades of progress made across the country to reduce systemic discrimination" and that "campus leaders will now have to work even harder to ensure that North Carolinians of all background are represented."
Gov. Healey says Massachusetts' commitment to diversity is 'unshakeable'
Democratic Gov. Maura Healey of Massachusetts, home of Harvard University, criticized the court's ruling in a statement, stating that it "overturns decades of settled law" but that the state's "commitment to progress and continued representation in education remain unshakeable."
Thomas compares affirmative action to slavery and segregation
In his concurring opinion, Thomas compares affirmative action to other "failure[s]" in American history, such as slavery and racial segregation.
The great failure of this country was slavery and its progeny. And, the tragic failure of this Court was its misinterpretation of the Reconstruction Amendments, as Justice Harlan predicted in Plessy. We should not repeat this mistake merely because we think, as our predecessors thought, that the present arrangements are superior to the Constitution.
UNC-Chapel Hill chancellor: 'Not the outcome we hoped for'
In response to the affirmative action ruling, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said that while the university disagrees with the decision, it remains “firmly committed” to admitting students of different backgrounds.
“Carolina remains firmly committed to bringing together talented students with different perspectives and life experiences and continues to make an affordable, high-quality education accessible to the people of North Carolina and beyond,” Guskiewicz said in a statement. “While not the outcome we hoped for, we will carefully review the Supreme Court’s decision and take any steps necessary to comply with the law.”
Justice Jackson: 'Deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life'
In a dissenting opinion filed by Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, she argues that the Court has "detached itself" from America's experiences.
"With let-them-eat-cake obliviousness, today, the majority pulls the ripcord and announces 'colorblindness for all' by legal fiat," the dissent read. "But deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life. And having so detached itself from this country’s actual past and present experiences, the Court has now been lured into interfering with the crucial work that UNC and other institutions of higher learning are doing to solve America’s real-world problems."
She continued, writing that "no one benefits from ignorance."
Dissenting justices say 'no one is fooled' by court's 'false promise'
In the dissenting opinion written filed by Sotomayor, she argues against the majority's suggestion that nothing in today's decision prohibits universities from considering a student's essay discussing how race affects their life.
"This supposed recognition that universities can, in some situations, consider race in application essays is nothing but an attempt to put lipstick on a pig," the dissent reads.
Later she continued, "Yet, because the Court cannot escape the inevitable truth that race matters in students’ lives, it announces a false promise to save face and appear attuned to reality. No one is fooled."
Thomas has been fighting to ban affirmative action for decades
“But for them, God only knows where I would be today,” he said. “These laws and their proper application are all that stand between the first 17 years of my life and the second 17 years.”
But as Thomas became subsumed into the world of Republican politics — following his appointment by Ronald Reagan to be chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — he became an ardent opponent of affirmative action. In 2007, he told ABC News that he became jaded when, after graduating from law school, job interviewers "doubted I was as smart as my grades indicated."
Thomas had plenty to say on the demise of affirmative action Thursday. His concurrence was 58 pages, while the majority's opinion was just 40 pages.
A Ketanji Brown Jackson footnote on Clarence Thomas
In her dissenting opinion, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson includes a lengthy, two-part footnote about Justice Clarence Thomas.
Accusing him of waging a "prolonged attack" in his concurrence, Jackson writes that he "responds to a dissent I did not write" to make his point. She says his opinion "demonstrates an obsession with race consciousness that far outstrips my or UNC’s holistic understanding that race can be a factor that affects applicants’ unique life experiences."
"JUSTICE THOMAS ignites too many more straw men to list, or fully extinguish, here," Jackson continues. "The takeaway is that those who demand that no one think about race (a classic pink-elephant paradox) refuse to see, much less solve for, the elephant in the room — the race-linked disparities that continue to impede achievement of our great Nation’s full potential."
NAACP criticizes ruling, will hold rally on steps of the Supreme Court
NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson released a statement condemning the Supreme Court's decision, saying that they "bowed to the personally held beliefs of an extremist minority" and that their ruling "displayed a willful ignorance to reality."
The organization plans to hold a rally at noon today on the steps of the Supreme Court.
The Obamas express disappointment over affirmative action ruling
Former President Barack Obama said in a brief statement that "like any policy, affirmative action wasn't perfect," but "it allowed generations of students like Michelle and me to prove we belonged."
"Now it’s up to all of us to give young people the opportunities they deserve — and help students everywhere benefit from new perspectives," he said.
The former first lady released a lengthy statement in conjunction saying she agreed that affirmative action policies have not been perfect, but that they have "helped offer new ladders of opportunity for those who, throughout our history, have too often been denied a chance to show how fast they can climb."
She continued by saying that many students were able to get into college under special consideration for admissions because of a legacy factor, or because their parents had money to advance their children or because students went to schools with "lavish resources for tutors and extensive standardized test prep that help them score higher on college entrance exams."
"We don’t usually question if those students belong," she said. "So often, we just accept that money, power, and privilege are perfectly justifiable forms of affirmative action, while kids growing up like I did are expected to compete when the ground is anything but level."
"So today, my heart breaks for any young person out there who’s wondering what their future holds — and what kinds of chances will be open to them," she continued.
Tomorrow is the last day of rulings
Tomorrow will be the final day of the Supreme Court's term, meaning that decisions on two remaining cases will come down: the student loan case and an LGBTQ rights/free speech case.
- President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan to erase more than $400 billion in student loan debt: Based on questioning at oral arguments, the justices seemed skeptical that the Biden administration has the authority to do this without explicit congressional authorization, but they may not need to reach that question if they toss out the suits from red states and borrowers challenging the plan on standing grounds.
- A wedding website designer in Colorado opposed to making websites for same-sex couples: She’s challenging the state’s public accommodations law — prohibiting businesses open to everyone from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation (among other things) — saying that violates her free speech rights.
Group that sued to overturn affirmative action will hold a news conference
Students for Fair Admissions, one of the parties in both the Harvard and UNC affirmative action cases, will hold a news conference today at 2 p.m. ET.
The group's founder and president, Edward Blum, celebrated the Court's ruling.
"The opinion issued today by the United States Supreme Court marks the beginning of the restoration of the colorblind legal covenant that binds together our multi-racial, multi-ethnic nation," his statement read.
Polls: Slim majority back affirmative action, but not in college admissions
An April NBC News poll found a slim majority of Americans agree that affirmative action programs are still needed — though other surveys asking specifically about using race in college admissions have found majorities opposed to that.
In the NBC News poll, 53% of Americans agreed that “affirmative action programs are still needed to counteract the effects of discrimination ... as long as there are no rigid quotas." Another 42% agreed that "affirmative action programs have gone too far in favoring minorities, and should be ended because they unfairly discriminate against white and Asian Americans.”
Opinions on affirmative action varied by racial group: white Americans split 47%-48% on the question, while 77% of African Americans and 68% of Latinos who said they favor affirmative action programs.
Other polls, however, have shown Americans against using race in the specific area of college admissions. In a June Pew Research Center poll, 50% of American adults said they "disapprove of selective colleges and universities taking prospective students’ racial and ethnic backgrounds into account when making admissions decisions," compared to 33% who approved, echoing other recent survey results.
Democratic senator calls to expand the court
Shortly after the affirmative action decision came down, Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., called for the expansion of the Supreme Court in a tweet.
Democrats previously pushed unsuccessful efforts to expand the court after then-President Donald Trump and Republicans appointed three conservative justices in four years.
Schumer condemns affirmative action decision
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., released a statement criticizing the Supreme Court's decision, saying that the ruling "has put a giant roadblock in our country's march towards racial justice."
"Students of color will face an admissions cycle next year with fewer opportunities to attend that same colleges and universities than their parents and older siblings," he said.
Schumer reaffirmed his support for the policy and said that he would continue "fighting for equal educational opportunities for all."
Dissenting opinion: the Court 'rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress'
In the dissent filed by Sotomayor, she argues that the Court's majority opinion is "not grounded in law or fact."
"Today, this Court stands in the way and rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress," the dissent reads. "It holds that race can no longer be used in a limited way in college admissions to achieve such critical benefits. In so holding, the Court cements a superficial rule of colorblindness as a constitutional principle in an endemically segregated society where race has always mattered and continues to matter. The Court subverts the constitutional guarantee of equal protection by further entrenching racial inequality in education, the very foundation of our democratic government and pluralistic society."
Later, the Justice asserts that when the Court singles out race, they impose a "special burden on racial minorities for whom race is a crucial component of their identity."
Sen. Booker: Affirmative action decision is "a devastating blow"
Sen. Corey Booker D.-N.J., tweeted that the Court's decision was "a devastating blow to our education system across the country" and that "affirmative action has been a tool to break down systemic barriers".
Republican 2024 candidates praise decision
Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy called affirmative action "a badly failed experiment" and called for "putting a nail in the coffin."
Former Vice President Mike Pence tweeted that he was "pleased that the Supreme Court has put an end to this egregious violation of civil and constitutional rights." He took some credit for the decision stating that he was "honored to have played a role in appointing three of the Justices that ensured today's welcome decision" and that he would appoint similar judges as president.
Majority opinion: 'College admissions are zero-sum.'
In the majority opinion, Roberts argued that college admissions are zero-sum.
"College admissions are zero-sum. A benefit provided to some applicants but not to others necessarily advantages the former group at the expense of the latter," the opinion read.
Which Justices signed onto which opinions on affirmative action?
Chief Justice John Roberts: Delivered the opinion of the Court. He was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
Justice Clarence Thomas: Filed concurring opinion.
Justice Neil Gorsuch: Filed concurring opinion, which Thomas joined.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh: Filed concurring opinion.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Filed dissenting opinion. Justice Elena Kagan joined. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson joined only as it related to the UNC case. Jackson previously said she would recuse herself from the Harvard because she was on a Harvard advisory board.
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson: Filed dissenting opinion as it related to the UNC case. She was joined by Sotomayor and Kagan.
What students need to know after the affirmative action ruling
We asked experts to assess what the Supreme Court ruling means for students and families.
Does the ruling get rid of diversity in selective colleges’ admissions?
While the ruling focuses specifically on barring race as a factor in admissions, it doesn’t limit institutions’ outreach, engagement, retention or completion strategies aimed at enrolling diverse student bodies, said Deborah Santiago, the CEO and a co-founder of Excelencia in Education, an organization that promotes Latino college completion. “You can do all of those things in these communities,” she said.
Higher education scholars and counselors say the onus is on colleges and universities to ensure that their applicant pools include students of color — many of whom come from segregated school districts with fewer resources.
Thomas read his concurring opinion in affirmative action case from the bench
Justice Clarence Thomas read his concurring opinion from the bench in the affirmative action case.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor is currently reading her dissent.
GOP Rep. Steel: Affirmative action 'stacked the deck against Asian Americans'
Rep. Michelle Steel, R-Calif., tweeted that "American colleges and universities have stacked the deck against Asian Americans in the name of diversity."
Steel, who is one of two Asian American Republicans in Congress, celebrated the court's decision against affirmative action programs saying that "today's victory marks a new chapter in the fight for equality in education."
Nikki Haley praises ruling striking down affirmative action programs
Nikki Haley, Republican presidential candidate, swiftly praised the Supreme Court's ruling against affirmative action programs at the University of North Carolina and Harvard.
“The world admires America because we value freedom and opportunity. The Supreme Court reaffirmed those values today," Haley, who was the first Indian American to serve in a presidential cabinet, said in a statement.
"Picking winners and losers based on race is fundamentally wrong," she added. "This decision will help every student—no matter their background—have a better opportunity to achieve the American Dream.”
GOP Education Committee Chair applauds affirmative action decision
Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., chairwoman of the House Education & the Workforce Committee, said in a statement that the affirmative action decision is a "welcome victory for countless students across the country — academia’s ivory towers should not divide and promote preferences based on the color of one’s skin."
"Postsecondary education has been plagued by affirmative action for far too long, and I’m pleased that the Supreme Court has finally upheld the equal protection of students. Fairness and merit will finally receive the due deference they deserve," she said.
Foxx added that Congress can build on the ruling by coming up with legislation "to ensure that all students, regardless of their financial background or life circumstances have access to high-quality postsecondary education options.”
Supreme Court strikes down affirmative action programs at Harvard and UNC
The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down affirmative action programs at the University of North Carolina and Harvard.
The court ruled that both programs violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution and are therefore unlawful. The vote was 6-3 in the UNC case and 6-2 in the Harvard case, in which liberal Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was recused.
The court’s decision is a major blow to the most selective universities that say some consideration of race is vital in ensuring they have diverse student bodies.
The small number of schools that have extremely competitive admissions programs are the most affected. They have predicted that rulings against the colleges will lead to a significant drop in the enrollment of minority students and require admissions officers to experiment with new race neutral plans intended to counteract the impact. The vast majority of colleges accept almost all applicants and will not be as affected.
White House reviewing the affirmative action decision
The White House is reviewing the affirmative action decision, an official said.
No additional opinions today
There are no additional Supreme Court opinions expected on Thursday.
Chart: the racial gap at flagship state universities
Court rules against affirmative action programs at Harvard and UNC
The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled in favor of challenges to affirmative action programs at the University of North Carolina and Harvard.
But how broad the ruling affects those programs and programs at other schools is not immediately clear.
Affirmative action case opinion
The court has posted the decision in the affirmative action case. Read it here.
Second case is Groff v. DeJoy, decision by Alito
The second case is Groff v. DeJoy, with a unanimous decision by Alito.
The lawsuit was brought by an evangelical Christian mail carrier who asked not to work on Sundays. Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments in April in an appeal brought by Gerald Groff, who says the U.S. Postal Service could have granted his request that he be spared Sunday shifts based on his religious belief that it is a day of worship and rest.
California Rep. Mark Takano: 'I have benefitted from the policy of affirmative action'
Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., tweeted this morning ahead of the Supreme Court decision on affirmative action that as an "Asian American graduate of UC Riverside and Harvard University" he believes he has benefited from affirmative action and that the policy should be upheld.
Takano is also the chair of the Congressional Asian-Pacific American Caucus’s Education Taskforce.
Court rules 6-3 on affirmative action
The court ruled in a 6-3 split between conservative and liberals on affirmative action.
First case is Abitron v. Hetronic, decision from Alito
The first case is Abitron v. Hetronic, with the decision from Justice Samuel Alito. This means the next decision expected will also be from Alito.
Affirmative action decision drops
The affirmative action case decision has been handed down. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the decision.
There are two boxes of decisions
There are two boxes of decisions today, that usually means we'll see opinions in three or four cases.
The Supreme Court has seven cases left to decide, but two of those cases are about affirmative action and two are on student loans. This means there are only five issues to be decided.
Student loan borrowers thought they were getting relief. Now, courts have put their lives on hold.
Joy Morales-Bartlett could finally see an end to her decadeslong student debt, but her ability to pay it off now rests in the hands of the Supreme Court.
With a remaining balance of $19,000, the former University of California, Santa Barbara, student applied to the program as soon as it opened, with high hopes. Morales-Bartlett received an email from the U.S. Department of Education two weeks ago saying her application had been approved.
But instead, her debt and that of roughly 16 million applicants who were also approved may never be forgiven if the Supreme Court sides with lower courts in Republican-led states that blocked the program. A ruling is expected next year.
Liberal wins at the Supreme Court may prove to be fleeting
In several recent rulings, the Supreme Court unexpectedly handed wins to liberal advocates on election law, minority voting rights and Native American issues, but all three rulings were not conclusive.
That means contentious issues could return to the conservative-majority court, and — based on what some of the justices have said — the outcome next time could be very different.
The rulings have prompted debate over whether certain justices are wary of issuing too many broad rulings that move the law sharply to the right, possibly in response to claims that the court risks losing its legitimacy by being viewed as a partisan institution.
“In general this term it appears the court is working hard to find as much consensus as it can by resolving cases in narrow ways, leaving for the future bigger issues that underly those cases,” said Rick Pildes, a professor at the New York University School of Law.
Biden’s student debt plan hangs in balance as major Supreme Court rulings loom
WASHINGTON — For months, the Biden administration’s ambitious plan to discharge billions of dollars of student loan debt has been on ice, blocked by lower courts, its fate left in the hands of skeptical conservative justices on the Supreme Court.
The stakes are high, with 43 million people eligible for up to $20,000 in debt relief. The total cost if the program ever goes into effect has been calculated at more than $400 billion, with the administration estimating that 20 million people would have all of their remaining student loan debt canceled.
The proposal is also important politically to President Joe Biden, as tackling student loan debt was a key pledge he made on the campaign trail in 2020 to energize younger voters.
But with a conservative-majority Supreme Court suspicious of broad assertions of executive power, Biden’s plan faces a significant hurdle.
Looming Supreme Court affirmative action ruling has elite colleges on edge
Late June is normally a peaceful time on college campuses. Not this year.
On Zoom calls, in working groups and in text chains, officials at elite schools are anxiously preparing. Within days, the Supreme Court could bar them from considering race as a factor in the admissions process.
“The truth is many colleges and universities have been preparing for this day for a long time,” Danielle Holley, incoming president of Mount Holyoke College in western Massachusetts, said in an interview.
Holley, who was dean of the Howard University School of Law for the last nine years, is well versed in the legal arguments for and against using race in college admissions. The daughter of two academics, she has been studying the case law since she was a young law student. Now, she’s focused on the practical implications of what the justices might do.
“Race is a critical part of how we do our work in higher education,” she said. “We don’t want tools taken away from us or our hands tied behind our back. ... I’m extremely worried.”
How the Supreme Court made it harder to overturn the 2024 election
The Supreme Court’s ruling Tuesday in a major election case was bad news for John Eastman — a lawyer aligned with Donald Trump who pushed a novel legal theory in his bid to overturn the 2020 election.
Tuesday’s 6-3 ruling rejected a sweeping version of what has been dubbed the “independent state legislature theory,” which argues that state legislatures have almost unfettered powers to implement election law, free even of the normal legal review carried out by state courts.
Eastman, a conservative lawyer, had embraced the theory as part of his widely discredited argument that then-Vice President Mike Pence had the power to refuse to certify the 2020 presidential election results.
It failed then, and the Supreme Court’s new ruling made it clear that it and similar far-fetched theories will not fly in the 2024 election either.