Universities in the United States will no longer be able to take racial imbalance into consideration when admitting students to their classrooms. This is how the country’s Supreme Court ruled this Thursday, with a conservative majority of 6 votes against 3 progressive judges, putting an end to positive discrimination against black and Latino students, which had been in force for two decades.
The case was taken to the Supreme Court by the complaint by Edward Blum, the founder of Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), against the admission systems of Harvard University and North Carolina University. The promoter of the resource considers that this model is unfair because it prejudices white and Asian students in favor of black and Latino students.
After learning of today’s sentence, Blum has celebrated that the Supreme Court has agreed with him: “Putting an end to racial preferences in university admissions is a result that the vast majority of races and ethnicities will celebrate. A university does not have true diversity when it simply brings together students who look different but come from similar backgrounds and act, talk and think alike.”
The argument of the two defendant universities is that the admission system based on positive discrimination (also called affirmative action) promotes equal opportunities, facilitating the arrival of minorities at universities, but it has not convinced the Supreme Court judges.
His decision will have effects on universities throughout the country, which will be forced to introduce changes in their admissions system, on which the Supreme Court ruled in 2003, with a very different composition of judges. Two decades ago, the court had approved the use of racial criteria in admissions, justifying it in that the existence of a diverse student body generates superior educational benefits for the whole.
In the case against the public University of North Carolina, the SFFA argued that affirmative action policies did not meet the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. In contrast, in the case of Harvard, a private university, it is challenged for a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits programs that receive federal funds from racial discrimination. In this case, the SFFA maintains that these practices discriminate against Asian Americans.
The Joe Biden Administration claims that the removal of these race-based admissions will have a “destabilizing” effect, causing a plummet of Black and Latino students at the most select universities in the country.
This decision is the latest example of the ultra-conservative course taken by the country’s highest judicial body, which last year already published controversial rulings, such as the one that repealed the right to abortion, the one that expanded the right to bear arms or the one that limited the legislative capacity of the Executive in climate matters.
On behalf of the progressive party, Judge Sonia Sotomayor has highlighted in her writing the “devastating impact of this decision” that “will strengthen racial segregation in higher education, because inequality will persist while it is ignored.”
Sotomayor, the most progressive justice of the Supreme Court, opposes the decision of the conservative majority, which aggravates discrimination in an “endemically segregated society in which race has always mattered and continues to matter.” Thus, the judge concludes that the decision “subverts the constitutional guarantee of equal protection by further entrenching racial inequality in education.”
Meanwhile, from the conservative majority (which former President Donald Trump consolidated with his appointments before leaving the Presidency), Judge John Roberts has explained the opinion of that bloc, according to which the Harvard and University of North Carolina programs they violated the Equal Protection Clause because they did not offer “measurable” objectives to justify the use of the breed.
“University programs must meet strict scrutiny, can never stereotype race, and – at some point – must end,” wrote Roberts, who was appointed in 2005 by then-President George W. Bush.
Another crucial decision for students
The Supreme Court justices, who are in their last week before going on vacation, will also make a decision between today and tomorrow on one of Biden’s big campaign proposals: the plan to forgive part of the student debt for millions of Americans. .
The president’s proposal is to eliminate 10,000 dollars of federal debt for those students with salaries of less than 125,000 dollars a year, or family units that earn less than 250,000 dollars. In addition, he plans to write off an additional $10,000 for everyone who went to college on public aid because of their low income.
This plan was challenged by the complaint of six states led by the Republican Party and two students from Texas who are not eligible for the program, and reached the Supreme Court, made up of nine robed people and lined up in Ivy colleges, in March League, whose salaries range from $274,000 to $298,000 annually.
Although it seems unlikely, a positive ruling by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority would bring great relief to the 43 million debtors who are eligible for the plan, half of whom could benefit from the cancellation of their entire debt. If this massive cancellation occurs, the estimated cost to the Administration would amount to about 400,000 million dollars, according to the White House calculations.
This would be a relief, but the problem of student debt, which hovers around 2 trillion dollars throughout the country, would still be far from being resolved. “This plan is not enough, we should cancel the debts in their entirety,” she told eldiario.es one of those affected, Nailah, who at 35 owes around $60,000. “It can’t be that so many people have to pay tens of thousands of dollars, in some cases six figures, over a lifetime, for an education that everyone should have access to. They talk about the American dream, but it doesn’t include a college degree.”
The states of Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Carolina, which make up one of the two plaintiffs, allege that the president exceeded his powers by signing the aid program without congressional approval.
A lower court dismissed their lawsuit, saying they can’t challenge the plan because they haven’t been harmed by it. However, the Court of Appeals subsequently suspended the program until a decision was made. It was at that moment that the highest judicial instance agreed to intervene.
The Supreme Court judges expressed doubts about the approval of the program, alleging an alleged violation of the separation of powers. Biden’s plan was based on a law enacted by Congress in 2003 in the aftermath of the attack on the Twin Towers, the Higher Education Opportunity Relief for Students Act (HEROES Act). At that time, the objective was to financially support the military who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq.
When the coronavirus broke out, Trump relied on said law to pause debts and so did Biden during the first two years of his term. But in August he went a step further and ordered the cancellation of the debts.
Redraw editorial map
In the first major decision this week, the Supreme Court rejected this Tuesday that state parliaments can approve new electoral maps without the supervision of state courts. This is an expected blow to North Carolina Republican lawmakers, who drew an electoral map in their favor using the technique known as gerrymanderingwhich consists of redrawing districts to benefit one party.
They did so based on a theory espoused by Trump supporters (the “independent state legislature doctrine”) that states have absolute authority over election laws and would have seriously challenged future US elections.
This authority, which according to the US Constitution is shared with the federal Congress in Washington, has to pass in each state through the supervision of state courts and must be done in compliance with the state Constitution, something that conservative legislators completely ignored from North Carolina.
The case reached the highest judicial instance after the Supreme Court of the southern state decided to annul these maps, which took the usual redistricting to the extreme. If the conservative majority of the federal Supreme Court had agreed with the Republicans, the door would have been opened for other states to carry out gerrymanering at will to benefit his own party, which could have meant a delegitimization of American democracy.
According to the Supreme Court ruling, “since very early in the history of our nation, the courts have recognized their duty to evaluate the constitutionality of legislative acts. We are asked to decide whether the Election Clause provides an exception to this basic principle. We maintain that it is not. The Election Clause does not insulate state legislatures from the ordinary exercise of state judicial review.”
Discrimination based on sexual orientation
The nine judges will also make a decision this week on the case of the web designer who refuses to provide her services for gay weddings. Lorie Smith, a 38-year-old evangelical Christian, filed a lawsuit challenging a Colorado state law that prevents businesses from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.
Smith wanted to expand his business to offer wedding website creation services, but with one limit: he would not work for gay couples. However, Colorado law requires him not to discriminate, so he must serve both heterosexual and homosexual couples.
Smith argues that the First Amendment to the Constitution, which enshrines free speech, protects it under Colorado law. According to her lawyer, the obligation to accept a commission from a gay couple would violate her free expression because it would implicitly spread a message favorable to equal marriage, which she denies.
The case sought to end the law on non-discrimination based on sexual orientation. At the time of filing the complaint, Smith had not even launched his wedding website service and had no assignments from any gay couple.