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Supreme Court Rules Against Affirmative Action at Harvard and UNC The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that race can no longer be used as a basis for college admissions, overturning a longstanding precedent.

By Madeline Garfinkle

Key Takeaways

  • The Supreme Court ruled against the use of affirmative action in higher education.
  • The Supreme Court found that the admissions processes at UNC and Harvard violated the Equal Protection Clause. The ruling stated that these programs lacked clear objectives "warranting the use of race."
  • As a result of the ruling, colleges and universities are no longer allowed to consider race as a basis for admitting applicants.
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The U.S. Supreme Court on June 28, 2023.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled against affirmative action in higher education.

The decision hinges on lawsuits filed in 2014 against Harvard and the University of North Carolina regarding the institutions' admissions processes as it pertains to race, claiming adverse discrimination against certain groups by giving extra weight to the applications of others. The Supreme Court ruled that the admissions processes at UNC and Harvard are unlawful in that they violated the Equal Protection Clause.

"Both programs lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful end points," the ruling states.

The decision means that colleges and universities can no longer factor in race as a basis for admitting applicants. The specific mechanics of how the ruling will reshape the application process, as well as student bodies, remains unknown. A glimpse into the decision can be foreseen at institutions that already have state-level bans of race-based affirmative action.

Related: 3 Research-Backed Ways to Show Up as an Ally for People of Color

According to a report by the American Educational Research Journal, enrollment of minority students greatly declined following state-level bans of affirmative action in California, Florida, Texas, and Washington.

Affirmative action, first introduced in colleges in 1978, is a set of practices and programs intended to counteract the effects of prior discrimination and promote diversity.

The vote was 6-3 in the UNC case and 6-2 in the Harvard case.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who is the first Black woman to serve on the Court, was among the dissenting opinion for the UNC case (and excluded herself from the Harvard decision since she was once on the board). Jackson said the ruling on Thursday was "truly a tragedy for us all," per NBC.

Some U.S. representatives praised the decision.

Rep. Virginia Foxx, chairwoman of the House Education & the Workforce Committee, said, "Postsecondary education has been plagued by affirmative action for far too long, and I'm pleased that the Supreme Court has finally upheld the equal protection of students," NBC reported.

Madeline Garfinkle

News Writer

Madeline Garfinkle is a News Writer at She is a graduate from Syracuse University, and received an MFA from Columbia University. 

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