Following the Supreme Court’s ruling severely restricting affirmative action in higher education admissions, anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions praised the Court’s decision at a press conference in Washington Thursday afternoon.
“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,” SFFA president Edward J. Blum said at the conference.
“The administrators of higher education must note the law will not tolerate direct proxies for racial classifications,” Blum added. “For those in leadership positions at public and private universities, you have an obligation to follow the letter and the spirit of the law.”
SFFA first filed suit against Harvard in 2014, alleging that Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policies discriminate against Asian American applicants and violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Calvin Yang, a participating member of SFFA who was denied admission to Harvard; Thomas R. McCarthy, chief trial counsel in the University of North Carolina case; and Adam K. Mortara, chief trial counsel in SFFA v. Harvard also spoke at the press conference.
When asked if SFFA would litigate the use of affirmative action by military academies — which the Court noted its ruling does not address — Mortara, the SFFA senior counsel, said the group is "still digesting” the decision and did not comment on future plans.
SFFA board member Kenny Xu said he does not think Harvard “should be in the business of determining how adverse of an experience somebody has been through.”
“I believe that race is the least important part about a person. I believe your merit, your abilities, your ambitions, your skill — those are far far more important than race,” Xu said.
Other members said the decision marks the beginning of “a new chapter” in the history of Asian Americans in the United States.
“It marks the promise of a new beginning, a resurgence of the principles of the American Dream, and a return to the egalitarian principles for all in this shining city upon a hill,” Yang said.
“It belongs to all of us who deserved a chance, and we can now rejoice in the fact that at least our kids can be judged based on their achievements and merits alone,” he added.
Richard D. Kahlenberg ’85, a professorial lecturer at George Washington University’s School of Public Policy and Public Administration, wrote in an emailed statement that the ruling is "a victory for low-income and working-class students of all races.”
“Harvard has said, to its credit, that it remains committed to racial diversity, so it will have to find new ways to achieve that goal,” wrote Kahlenberg, whom SFFA previously paid to analyze Harvard admissions data. “The most obvious step available is to provide a leg up to economically disadvantaged students of all races, a disproportionate share of whom are Black and Hispanic, and to jettison unfair preferences for the children of alumni, donors, and faculty.”
“In this way, a conservative Supreme Court decision will, paradoxically, produce a new set of liberal policies that Harvard should have adopted all along,” he added.
The Asian American Coalition for Education — which represents more than 350 Asian American organizations that support SFFA’s legal challenge and has written five amicus briefs backing SFFA — issued a statement titled “A Historic Victory for Asian and All Americans,” which affirms the court’s ruling and calls for “concrete measures” to address the “root causes of the failing K-12 education.”
“Today we finally see that the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court have provided equal protection of the laws to our communities,” AACE president Yukong Mike Zhao said. “This is a historic victory for Asian Americans, because our children will no longer be treated as second-class citizens in college admissions.”
The decision against Harvard concludes a nine-year effort by SFFA to strike down affirmative action, including rulings by two lower courts to uphold Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policies.
Federal judge Allison D. Burroughs ruled in Harvard’s favor in 2019, writing that “Harvard’s admissions program is narrowly tailored to achieve a diverse class and the benefits that flow therefrom.”
SFFA immediately appealed the decision to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, which also upheld Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policy in 2020.
The Supreme Court accepted SFFA’s petition to review the case in January 2022. Justices heard oral arguments in October and issued a single decision on both cases Thursday.
—Staff writer Michelle N. Amponsah can be reached at email@example.com.
—Staff writer Emma H. Haidar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.