Sunday, May 26, 2024
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HomeOpinionCommentaryResources to advance diversity and opportunity in higher education

Resources to advance diversity and opportunity in higher education

By Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta

I am proud to be here with secretary Cardona and assistant secretary Catherine Lhamon at the department of education as well as assistant attorney General Kristen Clarke of the justice department’s civil rights division to affirm our commitment to diversity and racial equality following the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Students for Fair Admissions.

Although this decision changes the landscape for admissions in higher education, it should not be used as an excuse to turn away from longstanding efforts to make those institutions more inclusive. In prior generations, students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds were denied the opportunity to learn together, and to participate in the robust exchange of ideas that happens in all parts of college and university life.

We have fought to tear down those barriers, and to provide students opportunities to engage with people from different backgrounds and see commonalities across race. We know that the racial and ethnic diversity of our nation is our strength, and we are stronger when our colleges and universities reflect that diversity. We will continue our fight to ensure that students in particular, and society as a whole, reap the benefits of that diversity.

Today, the Departments of Justice and Education are releasing two documents – a cover letter and a Q&A document – that provide a path forward for those colleges and universities impacted by the Students for Fair Admissions decision.

On the topline issue of considering race in admissions, colleges and universities can and should continue to ensure that their doors are open to those students of all backgrounds, including students of color, who possess the characteristics necessary to succeed and contribute on college campuses and in the world. Those include grit and perseverance, curiosity and academic and personal excellence.

The Supreme Court’s opinion recognized what we know to be true: that race can be relevant to a person’s life or lived experience, and may impact one’s development, motivations, academic interests or personal or professional aspirations. That impact can still be considered in university admissions.

In addition to detailing what the opinion means in the admissions context, the documents released today also provide additional information that may be helpful to colleges and universities. For example, the documents discuss avenues that are still open to colleges and universities working to remove barriers and expand opportunities for all. They also discuss actions institutions can take to ensure that they are places where all students, including students of color, feel like they belong. The information is not exhaustive but provides some examples for colleges and universities given the Supreme Court’s decision.

The departments of justice and education will continue working to ensure that students have equitable access to education, from their first day of school in pre-k or kindergarten, to their final cap-and-gown ceremony. The Supreme Court’s decision does not end our charge, and it does not relieve educational institutions of their duty to ensure that their admissions practices do not create barriers for students based on any protected characteristics, including race.

I want to thank the justice department’s civil rights division, as well as the department of education’s office for civil rights, for their ongoing work to ensure equal justice and access to education. Both departments remain steadfast in our commitment to expand educational opportunity and ensure that college campuses can reflect the great strength that is the rich diversity of our nation.

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