The US Supreme Court on Thursday struck down the race-conscious admissions programmes at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina.
“Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in his majority opinion, joined by the court’s five other conservative justices, according to the ABA Journal.
In a case taken by a group called Students for Fair Admissions, the court decided that the two universities’ programmes violated the equal-protection clause of the US constitution’s 14th amendment.
In response, the President of the American Bar Association (ABA) Deborah Enix-Ross said that the association had a long history of supporting affirmative action, and the consideration of race as one of many factors in law-school admissions.
“We believe it is imperative that colleges, universities and state legislatures find alternative ways to create a diverse and talented student body,” she stated.
The ABA had urged the Supreme Court to uphold its 2003 decision in Grutter v Bollinger, which held that colleges and universities could use race as one factor in decisions on admissions’.
US President Joe Biden said that he "strongly" disagreed with the decision.
“We have permitted race-based admissions only within the confines of narrow restrictions,” Roberts wrote.
“University programmes must comply with strict scrutiny; they may never use race as a stereotype or negative and, at some point, they must end.
“Respondents’ admissions systems – however well-intentioned and implemented in good faith – fail each of these criteria.”
Roberts said that consideration of race in admissions programmes had led to a decrease in Asian-American admissions, making race a “negative factor” for that group.
Such admissions’ programmes also rely on a “pernicious stereotype” that black students can bring something to a university that a white person can’t, he said.
Roberts added, however, that race could be a consideration if an applicant discussed the impact of race on their life, “be it through discrimination, inspiration or otherwise”.
The ABA Journal said that the decision would have a broad impact, citing a brief filed by Harvard that stated that 40% of all US universities took race into account in their admissions’ processes.
In a dissenting judgment, Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated that the decision “rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress”.