STATEMENT: Striking Affirmative Action Programs, SCOTUS Rolls Back Decades of Progress Dismantling Institutional Racism in Higher Education

June 29. 2023

For Immediate Release
Jun 29, 2023

Media Contact
Nazirah Ahmad
[email protected]

Statement from Noreen Farrell, Executive Director of Equal Rights Advocates (ERA)—a national  leading organization fighting for gender equality and equity in schools and universities—on the Supreme Court’s decision to remove race-conscious admissions at higher education institutions

San Francisco, June 29, 2023 – We are outraged at the Supreme Court’s decision today striking down affirmative action programs at the University of North Carolina and Harvard University. With a conservative majority holding that affirmative action programs violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, the Supreme Court upends prior settlement precedent and ties the hands of schools considering race to ensure a diverse student body. The decision undermines the rights of underrepresented groups to pursue higher education and will lead to devastating ripple effects across schools and workplaces nationwide.

Equal access to education is not a privilege but a fundamental right. Our government and nation’s institutions of higher learning have a responsibility to ensure that every student has an equal opportunity to succeed. Throughout history, systemic barriers and historical disadvantages have disproportionately affected communities of color and women, perpetuating deep-rooted inequalities. The federal government recognized this disenfranchisement when enacting affirmative action into law. However, by reversing these policies, the Supreme Court has severely undermined efforts to address these disparities and dismantle structural racism. 

Despite the majority court’s reasoning, white privilege continues to dictate educational outcomes in this country. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent in the Harvard case (which was joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson): “In so holding, the Court cements a superficial rule of colorblindness as a constitutional principle in an endemically segregated society where race has always mattered and continues to matter.”

As an organization dedicated to undoing systemic discrimination, we refuse to stand idly by while our rights are stripped. We recall our tireless fight in 1996 when California passed Proposition 209, which banned affirmative action in college admissions. Prop 209’s ripple effects have been severe: it led to a drop in diversity at California schools, lower wages for Black and Latino Californians, and a loss of $1 billion annually for women and people of color-owned businesses

Equal Rights Advocates will continue to champion gender and racial equity in schools and universities, and we stand in solidarity with our allies in the fight against all forms of discrimination. We urge everyone who shares our commitment to an inclusive vision of justice to join us in this fight. Together, we can challenge the narrow-mindedness of those who seek to roll back progress and build a future of social and economic equity. 


Noreen Farrell and other experts at Equal Rights Advocates are available for interviews upon request. Contact Nazirah Ahmad at [email protected] or 704-290-6869. 




About Equal Rights Advocates

Equal Rights Advocates fights for gender justice in workplaces and schools across the country. Since 1974, they have been fighting on the front lines of social justice to protect and advance rights and opportunities for women, girls, and people of all gender identities through groundbreaking legal cases and bold legislation that sets the stage for the rest of the nation.


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