Local universities and SUNY chancellor react to Supreme Court striking down affirmative action

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Local universities are reacting to the Supreme Court decision on Thursday that struck down affirmative action.

The court ruled that race cannot be a factor in college admissions, forcing academic institutions to look for new ways to achieve diverse student bodies. The 6-3 decision overturned admissions plans at Harvard and the University of North Carolina.

A statement from Chancellor John King and the board of trustees of SUNY school said the ruling will “have serious impacts on students and families seeking the American dream of opportunity through higher education.” The statement criticized the ruling for undermining progress in creating racial diversity in higher education and says SUNY schools.

Nazareth University released a letter after the ruling saying it will remain committed a creating a diverse campus. Here is the full letter from Nazareth University:

Today the United States Supreme Court issued an important ruling regarding affirmative action in higher education. Specifically, the court ruled that colleges and universities can no longer consider race as a specific, express factor in admissions.

The Supreme Court did not rule out race completely in admission programs, saying, “nothing prohibits universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected the applicant’s life, so long as that discussion is concretely tied to a quality of character or unique ability that the particular applicant can contribute to the university.”

Supreme Court decisions are complex, and legal experts spend years analyzing their impact. It’s certainly not possible for me or anyone at Nazareth University to assess — only hours after the ruling — how this decision will ultimately impact society or Nazareth. I can, however, share our initial institutional reaction, and provide context regarding what, if any, effect this ruling might have on Nazareth’s admissions processes. 

First and foremost, it’s important to reiterate that Nazareth remains deeply committed to equity in every facet of our campus community. Nazareth recognizes that there have been, and continue to be, unacceptable gaps and failures in higher education attainment by race and ethnicity. This not only negatively impacts individuals, but also our community, and society. Equity is a core, guiding strategic value, and a commitment to equity is central to our mission. Regardless of today’s ruling, we’ll continue seeking to establish equity and access for all of our students, faculty, and staff.

Nazareth also understands that diverse campus communities help all students to thrive in college and beyond. Experience working and living side by side in a diverse community, and learning about historical and contemporary dynamics of diversity, prepares students for their future, and improves our nation and the world. 

That said, while Nazareth makes diversity and equity a guiding priority, it’s important to clarify that Nazareth’s admissions process does not use race as a factor in admissions decisions. 

Nazareth has long used a holistic admissions review process, understanding and appreciating each student’s authenticity and possibilities. Students are never reduced to a “check box” — for race or any other single identity characteristic. Therefore, this ruling will not interrupt our admissions process. 

Diversity and equity have been guiding lights for Nazareth College, and now Nazareth University, since our founding. This ruling does not change this. In many ways, it actually enhances the importance of these elements of our mission, and amplifies the need for Nazareth to be steadfast in our commitments to building a diverse and informed campus community, and diverse and informed changemakers for our world.  

The University of Rochester released a statement saying that it’s reviewing the Supreme Court decision with its legal team to determine how it will impact the university’s operations. The statement said fostering inclusion is at the core of the U of R’s values:

The U.S. Supreme Court released its decision on the validity of race or ethnicity as recognized criteria in university admissions. The University of Rochester is carefully reviewing the decision with our legal team and others to determine the potential impact on our operations.

Fostering a culture of inclusion and belonging is a central tenet of our institutional vision and values and extends to policies and practices for admissions, recruitment, and employment in accordance with the principles of equal opportunity and in compliance with applicable laws. While we undergo this analysis, we once again affirm the University’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and we recognize that higher education and society at-large benefit from the diversity of thought that emerges from the open exchange of ideas among people from different backgrounds, identities, experiences, and beliefs.