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gen z protesting against anti-affirmative action policies.
gen z protesting against anti-affirmative action policies.
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Here’s What Gen Z College Students Need To Know About The SCOTUS Affirmative Action Ruling

Almost to the day of the SCOTUS 2022 ruling to overturn Roe V. Wade, the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action programs at two of America’s universities: the University of North Carolina (UNC) and Harvard University. This ruling was a result of conservative justices and activists who oppose the systemic consideration of race in the college admissions process.

On June 29, SCOTUS ruled that the affirmative action programs at both universities violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution; therefore, they are unlawful. For UNC, the vote was 6-3 and for Harvard, the vote was 6-2, in which liberal justice Ketanji Brown was recused. 

Essentially, this ruling declared that colleges and universities can no longer take race into consideration as a specific basis in admissions. This decision overturns long-standing precedent that has benefited Black, brown, and minority students in higher education. So, if you are reading this and you are worried, you are not alone. 

If you are a Gen Z college student, or if you are going to be applying to colleges soon, you need to be familiar with what this ruling means for you. 

What is Affirmative Action? 

Let’s start with the basics: what is affirmative action? In simple terms, Cornell University explains that affirmative action is “a set of procedures designed to; eliminate unlawful discrimination among applicants, remedy the results of such prior discrimination, and prevent such discrimination in the future.”

Affirmative action policies were introduced in the early 1960s in the United States, via President John F. Kennedy’s Executive Order 10925, as a means to abolish racial discrimination in the hiring process, later working to address gender-based discrimination.

Gen Z protesting anti-affirmative action policies.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The rulings against UNC and Harvard are incredibly discouraging and infuriating for the decades-old efforts to have a higher percentage of enrollment from minorities at American universities through the policies that took applicants’ race into account.   

This decision expands far beyond college admissions. According to NPR, this decision could have “wide-reaching implications, including for race-conscious programs in the workplace.”

The decision from today focused on a question about the Equal Protection Clause, and it overturned 40 years of legal precedent. 

How does SCOTUS’ ruling impact Gen Z?

Amplifying Gen Z students’ voices during this time is crucial. The Harvard Black Students Association wrote a statement claiming that “The elimination of race-conscious admissions is an erasure of our stories, contributions and selves’” and they expressed “deep disappointment” with the decision. 

Harvard University’s president, Lawrence S. Bacow said that the university would comply with the ruling, in an email sent to members of the Harvard community.” The email also stated that “In the weeks and months ahead, drawing on the talent and expertise of our Harvard community, we will determine how to preserve, consistent with the court’s new precedent, our essential values.” 

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Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Students at UNC Chapel Hill expressed their feelings of sadness. Isaiah Kirkpatrick, a Black student and rising junior at UNC said to the New York Times that “There’s already not that many of us here to begin with.” 

Pragya Upreti, an Asian American student at UNC Chapel Hill claimed the decision was not surprising, but she was still disappointed. She also said to the New York Times, “When I applied to U.N.C., I literally can’t imagine not having mentioned my race in my application… It wasn’t just checking a box. My race defines so much of who I am.” 

So, what now?

Given that the ruling is so recent, we don’t exactly know what the next steps are. President Biden spoke today at The White House and shared his remarks on the decision. He claimed that the decision was “a severe disappointment to so many people, including me.” Additionally, Biden argued that “court precedent shows universities can use race not as a ‘determining factor’ but as one factor in its admission processes”. 

President Biden made it explicitly clear that he is not in agreement with the decision. He said, “I strongly, strongly disagree with the court’s decision.” President Biden is offering guidance and support to the nation’s colleges who are facing many mixed emotions. He said in his speech, “We cannot let this decision be the last word” and that “They should not abandon their commitment to ensure student bodies of diverse backgrounds that reflect all of America.”

How to get involved.

So, while we do not exactly know what the next steps are or what this completely entails, there are ways to get involved in learning more and standing up against this ruling. 

Students from colleges nationwide gathered outside the Supreme Court today and protested the decision. Even if you are not a part of an organization or group, your voice is always appreciated and valued.

Eileen is a senior at Fairfield University who is studying Communications with minors in English, Professional Writing, and Women’s Gender & Sexuality Studies. She has a passion for magazine writing and hopes to pursue a career in the field. Eileen is the Entertainment & Culture Intern at Her Campus where she covers all things pop culture, entertainment, and internet trends. Eileen was formerly a National Writer for Her Campus from April 2023 - January 2024. Eileen is one of the Campus Correspondents (CCs) at Her Campus' Fairfield University chapter. She oversees the entire chapter and works with her other CC to curate ideas and events for HCFU. She also mentors and trains the editorial team and helps create content and boost engagement alongside the social media team. In her free time, you can find Eileen creating new Spotify playlists, getting a sweet treat with friends, or obsessing over Taylor Swift. If she isn’t doing that, you’ll likely find Eileen with her six best friends from school talking about their “Big Three”: "Normal People," their favorite "Dancing With The Stars" performances, and Greta Gerwig's "Little Women."