Columbia responds to SCOTUS ruling striking down race-conscious affirmative action

By Leah Love, News Editor

People protest outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Thursday, June 29, 2023. The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down affirmative action in college admissions, declaring race cannot be a factor and forcing institutions of higher education to look for new ways to achieve diverse student bodies. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

The U.S. Supreme Court handed down two rulings Thursday, June 29, that put an end to the use of affirmative action in college admission practices.

The court’s conservative majority ruled 6-3 and 6-2, respectively, to overturn race-conscious admissions plans at the University of North Carolina and Harvard University. This decision will impact both private and public universities if schools can no longer use race as a deciding factor in admissions.

Affirmative action plans have supported higher education in creating more diverse student populations by factoring in students’ race during the admissions process and was first approved by the Supreme Court in 1978 for use in college admissions.

Elizabeth Rodriguez, TRIO project advisor at Columbia, was “frustrated and upset and sad” when she first heard the news of the decision. “It’s hard to see a country that doesn’t want to see you succeed,” she said. TRIO is a federal outreach and student services programs, its office located on the fifth floor of the 33 E. Ida B Wells Dr. building, designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Rodriguez said it gives her “goosebumps” to think about the far-reaching consequences that the decision may have for the education and careers of Black and Latinx students in particular.

“It’s just like we’re going back in time,” she said. “They’re not going to get the education they need or want, and then that’s going to impact who goes into the workforce and then it’s just gonna go back into where we were, where it’s mainly white people, white males, rich white people back in those positions.”

Shortly after the ruling, Columbia’s Admissions Department sent out an email to high school counselors of schools the college partners with to assure that “nothing in this ruling will detract from our ability to continue evaluating applications holistically, and ultimately meeting our mission-driven goal of enrolling a diverse group of students each year.”

Columbia will likely not be impacted much by the decision — with a reported 96% acceptance rate.

As previously reported by the Chronicle, 59% of Fall 2022 incoming freshmen identified as people of color.

Derek Brinkley, assistant vice president of undergraduate admissions, said Columbia takes many steps when admitting students to ensure a diverse student body.

One step is having a diverse admissions and recruitment staff. Brinkley said additional steps include increasing the number of Chicago Public Schools students enrolled at Columbia through focused recruitment and scholarships and creating partnerships with community organizations such as OneGoal and Chicago Scholars.