Dear Campus Community,
Today, the Supreme Court issued opinions on two cases with a significant impact on the future of higher education access.
Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) argued in separate cases against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina that race should not be a factor in admissions for private or public institutions of higher education. The first case argued that the consideration of race violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in any program that receives federal funds. The second case argued that UNC used race to favor underrepresented students over others in the admission process, violating the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal-protection clause.
In ruling against race-based admission policies in these cases, the Supreme Court reminds us that the case for diversity, however it is achieved, must be made again and again.
It’s helpful to consider the past and recognize why affirmative action has been a part of the higher ed landscape. In the late 1960s, admissions departments around the country began considering race as a factor when admitting new students. These policies aimed to accept more students of color who had historically been excluded from colleges and universities, and whose pre-college opportunities had historically been more limited. In a landmark 1978 case, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the Supreme Court declared quota systems unconstitutional, yet upheld the ability to consider race as one factor among many others. The Supreme Court narrowly ruled in favor of limited affirmative action policies in subsequent challenges.
Research shows that academic achievement increases for pre-college students when affirmative action policies make admission to college more attainable. Affirmative action has also enhanced the educational experiences of all college students—not just marginalized students—as students are exposed to differences and experience cultural exchange. Studies have shown that a diverse environment fosters critical thinking, empathy and overall knowledge, preparing students to lead in a society that is becoming increasingly diverse.
Here at K, the ruling will have a limited effect. The College does not currently use race or ethnicity as a factor in its admission decisions. To promote diversity, we make a concerted effort to recruit students from a broad range of geographic areas and socioeconomic levels. We travel all over the country and around the world, and we visit schools with diverse populations. Our holistic admission process focuses on a student’s academic achievements, life experiences, and other factors that reveal their interests and talents.
Ultimately, our commitment as an institution to diversity and inclusion will not change following the Supreme Court decision. We believe higher education has a critical role in fostering racial equity and social justice, and K’s mission is to prepare students to provide enlightened leadership to a richly diverse and increasingly complex world. Thus, we will continue to do everything we can within legal bounds to provide access to talented students from a wide variety of backgrounds, and to provide an open and supportive environment to all students who are a part of our community.
The President’s Staff:
Jorge G. Gonzalez, President; Mj Huebner, VP for Admission and Financial Aid; Karen Isble, VP for College Advancement; Danette Ifert Johnson, Provost; J. Malcolm Smith, VP for Student Development and Dean of Students; Lisa VanDeWeert, VP for Business and Finance; Melanie Williams, Assistant to the President