October 31, 2022
Earlier today, the Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases that could affect the ability of colleges and universities nationwide to utilize race-conscious admissions practices.
A broad overturning of precedent that allows for the careful consideration of race as one of many factors in admissions would have a ripple effect throughout our society. As we have stated before, the outcomes of these cases will significantly affect access to higher education, including those colleges and universities that produce the largest volume of policymakers and leaders and influencers in the private and public sectors. They will determine whether students will be able to benefit from a diverse learning environment. The educational excellence that results from diversity and that fuels national and global excellence is at stake.
Like clockwork, every quarter century the Court takes up the issue of educational opportunity — in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, the Court overturned Plessy and found that separate education is inherently unequal, then Bakke in 1978, and Grutter in 2003, when the Court upheld the educational benefits associated with a diverse campus community. Yet based on what we heard this morning, we are not optimistic that this Court will continue to preserve precedent.
Only a few generations separate us from legal segregation in schools. The racial traumas from our country’s past linger. The recent gains of continued anti-racist work at many of our colleges and universities have been centered in our shared understanding that race and specifically racial exclusion have and continue to play a central role in the evolution of democracy in the United States. The central goal of diversity and inclusion work past and present is that all leaders engage in critical self-reflection on issues on race, diversity, and increased access and opportunity. It is our great hope that as the Court considers arguments in these cases, they consider not only our past, but our present, as it is clear that our society is not at a point where we can ignore race and the legacy of racism in this country. The pandemic’s uneven effects on Black and Brown people in this country made visible these inequities. Race has undeniably bestowed advantages and disadvantages in this country, and we hope that our country’s history is ever present in the minds of the justices as they consider these cases.
Where do we go from here, as the Court marches down a path that could lead to a gravely unfortunate outcome for race-conscious admissions practices? While we cannot yet fully know what the ramifications of these cases will be, NADOHE pledges its unwavering commitment to the importance of racial diversity on campuses, and it will continue to provide guidance to assist members in designing inclusive, legal ways to promote that diversity. Drawing on its national membership network, NADOHE will create opportunities to learn best practices from members who live in the nine states that already ban race-conscious admissions practices. Under all circumstances, we will continue to act with empathy and urgency to help students of all racial identities feel supported, valued, and welcomed on their campuses. We renew our call on the Supreme Court to affirm the legality and morality of race-conscious admissions.
The National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) is the preeminent voice for chief diversity officers. As the leader of the national conversation on diversity, equity, and inclusion, it investigates, influences, and innovates to transform higher education so that inclusive excellence lives at its core.