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Biden urges 'new path forward' that factors in adversity after affirmative action ruling

President Biden urged colleges and universities in the U.S. to maintain a commitment to cultivating diverse student bodies in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling that struck down affirmative action measures in admissions.

“We cannot let this decision be the last word,” Biden said in remarks from the White House just hours after the ruling was released Thursday. “While the court can render a decision, it cannot change what America stands for. America is an idea — an idea — unique in the world. An idea of hope and opportunity. Of possibilities. Of giving everyone a fair shot.”

“We will not walk away from it now,” he added. “We should never allow the country to walk away from the dream upon which it was founded.”

Biden called for a “new path forward” that is consistent with the law in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling but that protects diversity in college admissions. He offered “guidance” to colleges as they review their admissions systems, including that they “should not abandon their commitment to ensure student bodies of diverse backgrounds and experience that reflect all of America.”

He suggested a new standard consistent with the law “where colleges take into account the adversity a student has overcome when selecting among qualified applicants.”

Biden stressed that applicants would first have to qualify for admission through requisite test scores, grades, or other factors. Then, he argued, colleges should take into account additional considerations like financial means, if a student would be the first in their family to attend college, where they grew up, and hardships they’ve faced, including racial discrimination.

“The truth is, we all know it, discrimination still exists in America. Discrimination still exists in America,” Biden said. “Today’s decision does not change that. It’s a simple fact. If a student … had to overcome adversity on their path to education, colleges should recognize and value that.”

Biden said he would direct the Department of Education to analyze how best to build inclusive and diverse student bodies under the precedent set by the court Thursday.

The Supreme Court earlier Thursday handed down a pair of rulings that severely limited the use of race as a factor in college admissions, upending decades of affirmative action programs that U.S. institutions have used to select students from their applicant pools.

In rulings that broke along ideological lines, the court’s six conservative justices invalidated the admissions practices of Harvard and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) by ruling they did not comply with the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection.

The Biden administration had backed the two schools before the justices.

“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 end points,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority. 

Two of the court’s liberal justices — Ketanji Brown Jackson and Sonia Sotomayor — wrote scathing dissenting opinions that argued the rulings set the country back and ignored the reality that race plays a role for millions of Americans in shaping their lives.

Source: The Hill

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