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Harvard University said it would comply with the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that said its institution’s admissions system violated the Civil Rights Act — but indicated it would search for a loophole to accept applicants based on race.
The Supreme Court voted six to three against Harvard University and six to two against the University of North Carolina’s (UNC) affirmative action policies in a decision that will profoundly affect the admissions processes at universities across the country. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, a Harvard graduate, and former Harvard board member, recused herself from the Harvard case.
The Court ruled that the race-based admissions programs at Harvard violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, and the UNC programs violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
“The Court held that Harvard College’s admissions system does not comply with the principles of the equal protection clause embodied in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act,” Harvard University said in a news release. “The Court also ruled that colleges and universities may consider in admissions decisions ‘an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life,’ be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise. We will certainly comply with the Court’s decision.”
The institution added, “We write today to reaffirm the fundamental principle that deep and transformative teaching, learning, and research depend upon a community comprising people of many backgrounds, perspectives, and lived experiences.
“That principle is as true and important today as it was yesterday. So too are the abiding values that have enabled us—and every great educational institution—to pursue the high calling of educating creative thinkers and bold leaders, of deepening human knowledge, and of promoting progress, justice, and human flourishing.”
A group called Students for Fair Admissions sued the elite schools, accusing them of unfairly factoring race into their admissions processes. The group pointed to the high test scores of rejected Asian-American and white applicants.
Students for Fair Admissions argued that Harvard violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination by schools that receive federal funding. In the other case, the group accused the UNC of violating the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause by considering race in its admissions process.
UNC’s Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz said while the institution disapproves of the SCOTUS decision, it would “carefully review the Supreme Court’s decision and take any steps necessary to comply with the law.”
“Carolina remains firmly committed to bringing together talented students with different perspectives and life experiences and continues to make an affordable, high-quality education accessible to the people of North Carolina and beyond.”
Mairead Elordi contributed to this report.