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WASHINGTON—June 29th marks one year since the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in SFFA v. Harvard/ UNC-Chapel Hill undermining the use of race in college admissions. The Lawyers’ Committee litigated both cases from the beginning and argued the UNC case before the Supreme Court on behalf of student intervenors, and the Harvard case in the First Circuit on behalf of student amici.

The following is a statement from Damon T. Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law: 

“One year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that not only upended five decades of precedent by limiting race-conscious admissions, but also sought to upend the true meaning of the Equal Protection Clause and the promise of Brown v. Board of Education. The tragic ruling resulted from a very long campaign by bad actors to dismantle civil rights and opportunity at universities and beyond. Make no mistake. The ruling dealt a blow to racial justice, progress, and equality. The opposing forces are working to further chip away at civil rights, and even expand the ruling to other contexts.

But our pursuit of a true, thriving multiracial democracy demands that we not relent. At the Lawyers’ Committee,  our resolve to fight for equal opportunity is stronger than ever. We are doubling down on our efforts to make sure every child in America has the chance to fulfill their potential and reach their dreams.

Since June 29th of last year, together with partners nationwide, we have amped up the pressure to ensure that colleges adopt and implement the many lawful means to promote diversity and opportunity on their campuses to the fullest. If the courts try to remake the law, we must lead the effort to remake higher education. 

We have encouraged schools to stand up to the bullies who want them to stop fulfilling their obligation to promote diversity and opportunity. We have provided guidance on the many efforts the courts have continued to permit. Whether it means reassessing and adopting other inclusive admissions programs like percentage plans or income-based admissions, offering scholarships that help target oft-excluded students, or redesigning recruitment efforts, there are several lawful options on the table to ensure highly qualified Black students and other historically marginalized students of color are welcomed and supported. 

Above all, colleges should ensure that students can continue to discuss their race and its impact on their lives in college essays. The Supreme Court wrote, “nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration or otherwise.” Speaking about our identity and our experiences is a form of self-determination and a critical part of a full understanding of the individual.” 


The Lawyers’ Committee today released Principles for Racial Equity in Higher Education which provides guidance for colleges and universities.