DePaul President Manuel responds to SCOTUS striking down affirmative action


Jose Luis Magana via AP

Demonstrators protest outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Thursday, June 29, 2023, after the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in college admissions, saying race cannot be a factor.

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled that explicitly using race as a factor in admissions for colleges and universities violated the equal protections clause of the 14th Amendment.This decision renders race an illegal factor in the admission process for colleges or universities.

In a combination Students for Fair Admissions v. The Fellows and President of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions v. The University of North Carolina reached SCOTUS last fall before being decided this Thursday. The plaintiffs argued that the institution’s admissions practices systematically undermined Asian American students’ admission chances. 

“The Harvard and UNC admissions programs cannot be reconciled with the guarantees of the Equal Protection Clause,” said Chief Justice John Roberts in his opinion. “Both programs lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping and lack meaningful endpoints. We have never permitted admissions programs to work in that way, and we will not do so today.” 

Going forward, race may not be explicitly asked or denoted in the application questions, however it may be discussed in essays written by applicants. 

“Nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration or otherwise,” Roberts said. 

This decision by SCOTUS overturned more than 40 years of precedence, Justice Soyna Sotomayor argued in her dissenting opinion. 

“Today, this Court stands in the way and rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress,” Sotomayor wrote. “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. The Court subverts the constitutional guarantee of equal protection by further entrenching racial inequality in education.” 

While the ruling bars colleges and universities from using race as a explicit factor for admission, this is not the case for U.S. military academies — with a footnote addressing military academies and stating, “This opinion also does not address the issue [of race based admission at military academies], in light of the potentially distinct interests that military academies may present.” 

DePaul President Robert Manuel released a statement reaffirming DePaul’s commitment to institutional diversity.

“I am disappointed by this ruling and reaffirm DePaul’s steadfast commitment to serving the diversity in our world and creating a vibrant educational experience for all people,” Manuel said.

In Fall 2022, DePaul, in coordination with 55 other Catholic colleges and universities, signed an amicus brief, a document providing insight or additional information to help the court’s decision,  urging SCOTUS to uphold affirmative action in its then-upcoming cases. 

In the brief, DePaul’s mission statement is cited as reasoning for its support for affirmative action, “the intrinsic connection between dignity and diversity as a natural and necessary context for human flourishing.”  

Manuel concluded by stating DePaul’s commitment to accessible education since its founding.

Since its founding in 1898, DePaul has been dedicated to making education accessible to all. At DePaul, racial justice is intertwined with our Catholic, Vincentian mission to serve others and build an equitable society,” he wrote.