CFA responds to Supreme Court ruling to uphold ban on using race in admissions to Michigan’s public universities

The U.S. Supreme Court has once again demonstrated how out of touch it is with the lived experiences of ordinary Americans, especially underrepresented ethnic minorities.

In upholding the ban on the use of race in admissions to Michigan’s public universities, the Court has continued its assault on equal protections painfully won after the Civil War and during the momentous Civil Rights Era. Even more appalling is the fact that it continues to make rulings based on the naive notions of a “leveled playing field” and a “color-blind” society. Sitting in their bubble, insulated from the grim realities of ordinary life, the Court’s majority myopically chose to see this case through that very narrow lens.

Justice Kennedy, in writing for the majority, said that the case was not about race admissions but about whether Michigan’s voters could choose to prohibit consideration of racial preferences. We could not disagree with him more. In fact, we are in total agreement with Justice Sotomayor, whose written dissent highlights that without limitations, even democratically approved legislation can be used to oppress:

“To know the history of our Nation is to understand its long and lamentable record of stymieing the right of racial minorities to participate in the political process,” she added. “As members of the judiciary tasked with intervening to carry out the guarantee of equal protection, we ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society. It is this view that works harm, by perpetuating the facile notion that what makes race matter is acknowledging the simple truth that race does matter.”

The California Faculty Association has a long-standing history of fighting for and supporting equity and diversity on the state’s 23 public university campuses. For years, our Council for Affirmative Action has worked tirelessly to educate the wider community about the struggle of gender, race and ethnic equality in academia, hosting a biennial Equity Conference since 2003 and publishing our handbook, “Affirmative Action in CSU Employment: Permissible Action in the Wake of Prop. 209” in 2005.

Regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision, CFA continues its support of affirmative action and will continue working for equity and just treatment of faculty and students of color in the CSU. This work is necessary to create truly diverse, fair universities, as well as accepting communities.