‘Deeply troubled.' Connecticut colleges react to affirmative action ruling

The president of Yale University said he’s “deeply troubled” by Thursday’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, striking down affirmative action in college admissions. But several Connecticut schools believe the ruling will have minimal impact on their campuses.

John Craven

Jun 29, 2023, 11:16 PM

Updated 296 days ago


The president of Yale University said he’s “deeply troubled” by Thursday’s landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, striking down affirmative action in college admissions. But several Connecticut schools believe the ruling will have minimal impact on their campuses.
Dr. Terrence Cheng is president of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, which operates the state’s regional universities and community colleges.
“While I don’t expect this ruling to have a significant impact on CSCU or its institutions, 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,” Cheng said in a letter to students.
The ruling means colleges can no longer use race as a factor in admissions, rejecting more than 40 years of legal precedent. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that affirmative action violates the Constitution's Equal Protection clause.
In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, "Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it.”
Reaction was swift from both sides of the debate.
“I strongly disagree with the decision,” President Joe Biden said in a White House address. “We cannot let this decision be the last word. Discrimination still exists in America. Today's decision does not change that.“
But others, including Asian student groups, called the ruling a victory for fairness.
“I'm ecstatic about this decision,” said Kenny Xu, president of the group Color Us United. “It means that Asian Americans can finally get treated on their merits. Guys, we know why Asian Americans are – should get into Harvard at disproportionate rates. It's because they study twice as many hours as the average American. It's not because of their race.”
Connecticut colleges and universities have braced for the Supreme Court decision for months.
“A bunch of our hearts dropped rather precipitously this morning,” said Andy Strickler, the admissions dean at Connecticut College in New London.
Strickler thinks the ruling gives schools some wiggle room. The Supreme Court said students can still address race in their admissions essays, like expressing how it has impacted their lives.
“There's a lot of gray area that exists in the actual language of the decision,” he said. “Many people oversimplify this and think that race is the factor. It's a factor – in probably 50, 60, 70, 80 different elements of each student's application.”
Other Connecticut schools said there are other ways to guarantee diversity.
“Despite my strong disagreement with the Court’s decisions, I am committed to the rule of law,” Yale University president Peter Salovey said in a statement. “In the coming months, deans of admissions and other university leaders will review Yale’s admissions policies to ensure that Yale College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and every professional school comply with the law as interpreted by the Supreme Court.”
The University of Connecticut system said it will double-down on efforts to recruit students from marginalized communities.
“While we still need to thoroughly review the lengthy decision to fully understand its implications, this one unquestionably does impact us – and we are deeply dismayed and disappointed by it,” UConn president Radenka Maric wrote in a message to students.
Quinnipiac University said it does not use affirmative action in admissions.
“While our undergraduate admissions and financial aid processes do not use race as a criterion for admissions or award of financial aid, we do use data and statistical analysis to determine if deliberate programs are needed to eradicate disparities that correlate with, and hinder the advancement of, race, ethnicity or gender,” said QU president Judy Olian.
Fairfield and Sacred Heart universities did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
Eight states have already banned affirmative action. At the University of California system, minority admissions dropped by half. Despite that dire statistic, Gov. Ned Lamont said the decision won't stop Connecticut’s efforts to level the playing field for minorities.
“I've been talking to the universities’ presidents about it,” Lamont told reporters Thursday. “We're going to do everything we can to maintain diversity equity and inclusion in all of our universities.”
Jack Heffernan, who is white, is about to apply for college. He sees both sides of the debate.
“I think it should be based on grades, but there's also a factor of where you came up in life – because there's – everyone doesn't come up from the same place,” he said.
Steven Castro, who is Hispanic, supports the decision – even if it makes college admission tougher for his daughter.
“If you're good enough, you should able to get in,” he said. “I don't see why not. That should be, like, the main reason.”
But others, like David Dominique, who is Black, are nervous.
“We'll see in the upcoming years, you know, what effect it's going to have,” he said. “I think it was a mistake to reverse affirmative action.”

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