On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina (UNC) are unconstitutional, with implications for affirmative action policies at higher education institutions across the country.
Experts say the rulings could dramatically reshape how highly selective institutions build their incoming classes. For the last four decades, universities have included race-conscious admissions practices among many tools to promote diversity in their student bodies. In barring those practices, the Supreme Court’s decision “all but ensured that the student population at the campuses of elite institutions will become whiter and more Asian and less Black and Latino,” The New York Times writes.
In a statement expressing deep disappointment with the ruling, Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia emphasized that “This latest decision by the Court does not change what we know to be true: diversity matters in fulfilling our obligations in preparing future citizens—future stakeholders in our democracy.” He added that while Georgetown will comply with the law, “we continue to be committed to taking steps to build a better future—ensuring that the full range of voices, histories, and experiences are included in our academic community as we work to fulfill our mission.”
Ongoing advocacy for diversity, inclusion
Georgetown has long advocated for the educational benefits of diversity in higher education. Last summer, as the Supreme Court prepared to hear arguments in the two cases brought by Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) against Harvard and UNC, Georgetown led a coalition of 56 Catholic colleges and universities to file an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold longstanding legal precedent allowing universities to enhance the diversity of their student bodies through admissions practices.
The Supreme Court heard arguments for the cases in Fall 2022, as SFFA—a group founded by legal activist Edward Blum, who has previously organized lawsuits against race-conscious affirmative action policies and voting rights laws—contended that UNC’s admissions programs violated the 14th Amendment by favoring Black and Latine applicants and claimed Harvard’s admissions policies discriminated against Asian-American applicants. This week, the Court ruled 6-2 and 6-3 that the race-conscious admissions practices of Harvard and UNC, respectively, were unlawful.
Committed to enrolling, supporting students from all backgrounds
In his response, DeGioia pointed out that the Court’s decision “is particularly concerning” given the findings of a recent report from Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW). CEW research has shown that selective colleges and universities would struggle to build student populations that reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the nation’s high school graduates if the Supreme Court declared race-conscious admissions practices unconstitutional.
In its latest report, CEW said that ending the consideration of race and ethnicity in college admissions would stall or decrease the enrollment of historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups at selective colleges and universities—even if other factors, such as socioeconomic background, were weighted more heavily.
Looking ahead, DeGioia said that Georgetown “will convene academic and admissions leaders from across the University to facilitate our collective efforts to assess the impacts of today’s decision on current programs and determine our next steps in fostering an inclusive campus community.”
“We remain committed to our efforts to recruit, enroll, and support students from all backgrounds to ensure an enriching educational experience that can best be achieved by engaging with a diverse group of peers,” he wrote.
Read more to learn about Georgetown’s past work and unwavering commitment to cultivating a diverse and inclusive community.