October 18, 2022
Race-conscious admissions practices are foundational to the work of making college campuses more diverse, equitable and inclusive learning environments. They have helped broaden access to higher education for students from historically marginalized communities. And yet, despite long-standing precedent and rulings that time and time again have affirmed the legality and value of these practices, they are deeply threatened by a pair of cases that will soon be heard by the Supreme Court.
The National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education believes that there is no adequate substitute for race-conscious admissions practices. Turning over precedent that has been recognized by the Court in prior cases would be a grave mistake, harming students, the national workforce, and institutional autonomy, and turning the clock back on decades of progress to expand access to education for students. The outcomes of these cases will indicate what type of society we will construct if we choose to ignore race, as one of many factors in admissions.
A diverse campus community is essential for educational experiences and for preparing students for success in an increasingly diverse and global workforce. Many colleges and universities have explicitly recognized the value of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice; this is reflected in their mission statements, as well as in our own growing membership numbers. Permitting race as one of many factors that colleges and universities can carefully consider while building their communities allows those institutions to advance their missions and values in the manner they deem most effective, within permissible limits.
The outcomes of the cases may cut beyond institutional autonomy to our very humanity: To deny an institution’s ability to consider a student’s racial identity is to tell a student that their identity, and the way that race and ethnicity have shaped their life and their perspective, is worth no ink on the page. It tells students they must divorce themselves from their very being, a task that is unfathomable to ask of a student and impossible to achieve.
NADOHE is not alone in our advocacy that the Court not overturn its prior decisions that permit carefully constructed race-conscious admissions policies. Over 60 amicus briefs were filed by not only higher education institutions and associations, but state attorney generals, the military, civil rights organizations, and top corporations across the country. NADOHE joined the amicus brief filed by the American Council on Education, along with 38 other higher education associations.
Regardless of the Court’s decision, our work as practitioners and scholars of inclusive excellence in higher education will continue to be critical. Its importance will only grow if the Court does not uphold precedent and further restricts or outright bans race-conscious admissions practices. NADOHE offers resources to help those dedicated to cultivating more inclusive, anti-racist environments; we encourage individuals and institutions to apply our Framework for Advancing Anti-Racism Strategy on Campus and to attend our upcoming webinars regarding the cases before the Court.
The National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) is the preeminent voice for chief diversity officers. As the leader of the national conversation on diversity, equity, and inclusion, it investigates, influences, and innovates to transform higher education so that inclusive excellence lives at its core.