In a momentous ruling on Thursday, Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Sonia Sotomayor presented opposing views on affirmative action, reading their conflicting opinions aloud from the bench.
The rare move by the justices highlights the significance of the case and their desire to draw special attention to their respective positions.
Justice Thomas, in his concurring opinion with the court’s ruling against affirmative action, emphasized the triumph of constitutional principles. “Today, and despite a lengthy interregnum, the Constitution prevails,” he stated.
The 75-year-old justice not only praised the majority opinion overturning decades of judicial allowance for race-based admissions in colleges and universities but also provided his own individual perspective.
Moreover, Thomas offered an originalist defense of the colorblind Constitution, criticized the court’s previous Grutter jurisprudence, asserted that all forms of race-based discrimination, including affirmative action, are prohibited under the Constitution, and underscored the harmful effects of such discrimination.
On the other hand, Justice Sotomayor delivered a dissenting opinion against the majority ruling. Justice Sotomayor was joined by the two other liberal justices, Ketanji Brown Jackson and Elena Kagan. Sotomayor began her dissent by invoking the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which she argued guarantees racial equality. She contended that the court’s decision rolls back decades of precedent and vital progress, asserting that race-conscious measures are necessary in a society that has never been colorblind.
Sotomayor expressed concern that the ruling establishes a superficial rule of colorblindness as a constitutional principle in a society that remains deeply segregated and where race continues to play a significant role.
The 6-3 ruling, which divided the court along traditional lines, stemmed from cases brought by the student activist group Students for Fair Admissions against Harvard and the University of North Carolina. The initial lawsuit against Harvard College, filed in 2014, alleged violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in federally funded programs or activities.
Furthermore, the group accused Harvard of practices that disadvantaged Asian American students and of failing to adopt a neutral admissions processes for all races. The University of North Carolina’s case raised questions about the permissibility of non-race-based admissions practices and their impact on academic quality and campus diversity, according to reports from Fox News.
Thomas Sowell, a well known scholar, professor, author of dozens of books and conservative activist has talked on this point and wrote a book on affirmative action as well.
Sowell brought up many points arguing for the ruling that came today. One of the points Sowell has stated in the past that “despite sweeping claims made for affirmative action programs, an examination of their actual consequences makes it hard to support those claims, or even to say that these programs have been beneficial on net balance.”
In Sowell’s book, “Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study” he highlights the empirical analysis of the consequences of affirmative action in college admissions.
“Studies have shown that black students admitted to colleges and universities under lower academic standards than other students are far more likely to switch to easier majors, far less likely to graduate, and far more likely to transfer to other schools than black students admitted under the same academic standards as other students,” Sowell wrote.
He added, “This is not something peculiar to blacks, for whites and Asians also tend to switch majors, transfer, and drop out more when they are admitted to schools where their academic credentials are not competitive with those of their fellow students. The bottom line is that admissions policies that ignore the actual qualifications of students and seek to engineer a desired racial or ethnic mix are a disservice to all students, black and non-black alike.”
The ruling marks a significant shift in the interpretation and application of affirmative action policies in higher education. As the debate surrounding race-conscious admissions continues, this decision will undoubtedly have far-reaching implications for colleges, universities, and aspiring students seeking equal opportunities in education.
Follow Alexander Carter on Twitter @AlexCarterDC for more!
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Department of Education Office of Civil Rights opens investigation into Harvard University
On Tuesday the United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights opened an investigation into Harvard University in order to determine if the school has fulfilled legal obligation to respond to the increase in antisemitic incidents after Hamas’ brutal attack on Israel on October 7th.
The university agreed to cooperate with the investigation in a statement issued Wednesday. “We support the work of the Office for Civil Rights to ensure students’ rights to access educational programs are safeguarded and will work with the office to address their questions,” the statement read.
The DOE has also opened investigations into Columbia University, Cornell University, Wellesley College, and the University of Pennsylvania this month over “discrimination involving shared ancestry” under Title VI.
the investigation was prompted after a complaint which stated Harvard “discriminated against students on the basis of their national origin (shared Jewish ancestry and/or Israeli) when it failed to respond appropriately to reports of incidents of harassment,”
National Review reports that while the Office of Civil Rights does not typically disclose which specific complaints prompted an investigation, there have been several high-profile incidents of antisemitism at Harvard and other Ivy league universities in recent weeks.
Hedge fund manager Bill Ackman sent an open letter to Harvard president Claudine Gay earlier this month which cited the confrontation at the “die-in” and urged her to take action to protect Jewish students.
“Jewish students are being bullied, physically intimidated, spat on, and in several widely-disseminated videos of one such incident, physically assaulted,” Mr. Ackman wrote. “On-campus protesters on the Widener Library steps and elsewhere shout, ‘Intifada! Intifada! Intifada! From the River to the Sea, Palestine Shall be Free!’”
Harvard President Claudine Gay released a statement about “combatting antisemitism” on November 9:
“I affirm our commitment to protecting all members of our community from harassment and marginalization, and our commitment to meeting antisemitism head-on, with the determination it demands,” Gay said. “Let me reiterate what I and other Harvard leaders have said previously: Antisemitism has no place at Harvard.”
Among the antisemitic events that have circulated national news are how just days after the Hamas attack, a 19-year-old Columbia student was arrested for allegedly assaulting an Israeli student who was trying to prevent the suspect from tearing down posters of Israeli hostages. Also at Cornell, a 21-year-old student was arrested for allegedly threatening to murder and rape his Jewish classmates on an anonymous online message board.
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