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Connecticut, New York reacts to Supreme Court reversing affirmative action in colleges

The Supreme Court
Evan Vucci

The Supreme Court ruled that race-conscious admissions processes are unconstitutional in a pair of cases involving Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Citing higher education research and 40 years of legal precedent, supporters said affirmative action — policies that give students from underrepresented racial groups an advantage in the college admissions process — is the most effective way to protect diversity in a student population.

Critics argue it is unfair to use race as a consideration for admissions, and label the policies as fulfilling a diversity “quota.”

In the UNC case, the court considered whether the school weighed race too significantly in the admissions process. With Harvard, the court considered whether the school discriminated against Asian American students in the admissions process. The conservative activist group Students for Fair Admissions backed both the Harvard and the UNC cases.

There are just over 200 schools where a race-conscious admissions process could make a significant difference in the student body, including in Connecticut and New York.

This story is being updated with reaction from around the region:


CSCU Chancellor Terrence Cheng said he does not expect this ruling to have a significant impact on Connecticut’s state colleges and universities. “It should be alarming for all of us in higher education, chiefly because race-conscious admissions are by far the most effective means of increasing diversity at selective schools. We know this from experience. … We will continue to be the most important drivers of social mobility and workforce development – a responsibility we take with the utmost seriousness. But the removal of our colleague institutions’ most effective tool in undermining a legacy of structural racism is a serious step in the wrong direction and will result in furthering societal inequities.”

SUNY Chancellor John King called it an egregious ruling that will have serious impacts on students and families. "We know that no court ruling – however misguided – can shake our understanding that our pursuit of diversity, equity, and inclusion, within the law, will always be integral to ensuring that SUNY is the best public system of higher education in the country.”

Yale President Peter Salovey, who argued in the amicus brief in favor of diversity enhances higher education, said "a whole-person admission review process that takes into account every aspect of an applicant’s background and experiences has enabled colleges and universities to admit the classes they need to realize their missions. Restricting this ability limits universities in opening their doors to students with the widest possible range of experiences. This is a detriment to everyone who benefits from the diversity of our campuses.”

Andy Strickler, dean of Admission and Financial Aid at Connecticut College, which was among 33 liberal arts institutions that submitted an amicus curiaebrief last fall in support of race-conscious admissions. “We support the use of a holistic admissions process in which many factors are considered, including race," Strickler said. "Studies consistently show that diversity — including racial diversity — meaningfully improves learning experiences and problem-solving, critical-thinking, interpersonal and leadership skills.”

Kristen Capezza, vice president of enrollment management and communications at Adelphi University, which does not use any race-conscious admission policies and admits the majority of academically qualifying applicants, said institutions like hers will likely be spared any major impact from decision. "Our employment of race-neutral recruitment programs like test optional admissions and our Transfer Tuition Guarantee alongside our participation in varied recruitment events for diverse communities will continue to ensure that Adelphi remains a diverse, inclusive, and welcoming campus for years to come."

A Stony Brook University spokesperson said, together with the leadership of the SUNY system, is carefully reviewing the Supreme Court ruling. "Stony Brook actively recruits a diverse student population; undergraduate admission is based on a holistic review that includes optional test scores, GPA, curriculum, essays, recommendations and the prospective student’s major of interest."

Hofstra University President Susan Poser said, "affirmative action has provided opportunity to generations of college students, changing the trajectory of their lives and the richness of our society. ... We will continue to follow a holistic admissions process that has helped to create a campus environment that embodies our community’s core values of diversity equity, and multiculturalism."


Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont said, “this ruling takes our country backward by upending the hard work that has gone into removing barriers to educational advancement. College students learn from one another, and college campuses only benefit from diverse student bodies coming together to learn and grow." He added Connecticut's higher "have been planning for this day and will taking a holistic approach to the admissions process, including outreach to marginalized and underserved communities, developing a robust, culturally competent curriculum, and ensuring our student body and our staff are representative of all our communities.”

New York Governor Kathy Hochul is in talks with SUNY to assess policies at state universities and colleges, but said “they'll be considering many factors to understand that diversity is an important part of who we are.” “This is a dark day for democracy and for equality,” Hochul said. “We want to make sure that our educational institutions are an opportunity for millions of New Yorkers that remains open to all.”

Connecticut Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz said, “Yet again the Supreme Court has chosen to dismantle decades of settled law, legislating from behind the bench and effectively derailing years of progress. …Our students benefit from learning among those who come from different backgrounds and experiences, and here in Connecticut we will continue to support efforts that help to promote inclusion and equity at our colleges and universities.”

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said, “Diversity has helped make our higher education system the best in the world. Racially diverse classrooms benefit all students. With this decision, the Court has dealt a major blow to the fight for equality and racial justice—impeding underrepresented minority students from accessing a world-class education and the American dream. After decades of progress, the Supreme Court has taken a massive step backwards which will harm students of color, exacerbate racial disparities, and sideline the perspectives and lived experiences of millions of Americans.”

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) said, “This out of touch ruling will have consequences far beyond who gets access to a college education; it all but ensures that future generations of teachers, business executives, doctors, and lawyers, among others, will look less like America than they do today. As Justice Jackson wrote in her dissent, ignoring race won’t end racism, ‘No one benefits from ignorance.'"

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said, "Yet again, this right-wing Supreme Court has overturned decades of precedent in pursuit of its political agenda. This misguided ruling will deeply harm efforts to increase diversity in our schools and to create a more equal society— going forward, students of color will face greater obstacles in pursuing higher education and the opportunities that come with it."

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, who filed an amicus brief in the cases alongside 20 state attorneys general in support of race-conscious admissions, said the decision undercuts more than four decades of precedent allowing higher education institutions to consider race or ethnicity as part of holistic admissions processes to promote diversity in learning environments. “As a Chinese-American, let me just say that efforts to pit Asian-American students against their classmates and friends are deeply hurtful and unhelpful. To the right-wing extremists using families like mine to advance your own hate-based agenda: you do not speak for me,” Tong said. “Refusing to acknowledge or address race does not make racism go away.”

New York State Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox said, “De facto race quotas at our nation’s elite institutions have been a roadblock on the path to the American Dream for many Americans, especially Asian Americans. Today’s decision takes us a big step closer to an America in which citizens are judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”