Civil Rights Leaders Condemn SCOTUS Decision to Weaken Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, Demand Action from All Sectors to Ensure All Students Can Thrive

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights: Mattie Goldman, [email protected]
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law: Jacqueline Olson, [email protected]
Legal Defense Fund (LDF): Troi Barnes, [email protected]
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC: Michelle Boykins, [email protected]
LatinoJustice PRLDEF: Carolina Gonzalez, [email protected]

WASHINGTONThe Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF), Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC, and LatinoJustice held a joint press briefing to condemn the Supreme Court majority’s bigoted agenda and decision to betray our shared values of fairness and equal opportunity. The decisions, Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. University of North Carolina, rejected nearly 50 years of precedent. Civil rights leaders spoke on the unacceptable decision to roll back decades of progress on civil rights and racial justice and detailed the united commitment across race and ethnicity to build a multiracial democracy where all students have an unprejudiced opportunity to pursue higher education.

Video of the event is available here.

Maya Wiley, president and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said:

“We stand together as a civil rights community. We stand together as community leaders representing the community who has fought for the recognition that today’s America has still not lived up to the ideals we deeply share as Americans. We are in a country today where we are still struggling to have a fair right to vote. When we talk about educational opportunity, we’re talking about the need to create more opportunities for every single American without regard to where they live, how many resources they have or the color of their skin, and the longstanding history of throwing up barriers in the face of too many of our communities because of how we look, our languages or nation of origin. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson is right in her dissent — we want a country where what we look like does not impede our opportunity. We do not yet live in it. That is why we will continue to fight together and unified, and not let those who try to pit our communities against each other to succeed.”

Damon Hewitt, president and executive director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said:

“Through a tortured interpretation of the law, history, and current-day reality, today’s decision threatens to make higher education less accessible, less equitable, and less attainable for students of color. But this Court cannot and will not have the last word. We have to be clear: Affirmative action is a tool, but the prize is racial equity, racial justice, and opportunity for all — especially those who have been historically marginalized. We will continue to support and encourage students to proudly express themselves and their identity, including race and their experiences with racism. We urge every institution of higher education to double down on efforts to promote opportunity, including asking student applicants to continue talking about their identity and their experiences with race and racism, which even this Court seems to understand still matters and has said remains permissible under the law. We expect the business community to follow suit especially because nothing in today’s decision changes their legal obligations. Every sector must be united.”

Janai Nelson, president and director-counsel, The Legal Defense Fund (LDF), said:

“We roundly condemn and regard with alarm the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Harvard and UNC’s affirmative action programs, ignoring its own long-standing precedent, and distorting the legacy of the seminal decision in Brown v. Board of Education — which held that society must not turn a blind eye to racial inequality and can take necessary measures to address it. We know that race still unquestionably matters in our society — particularly for Black people and others whose race has shaped their lived experiences in a country rooted in a history and current reality of racial injustice. Despite the Supreme Court’s opinion today, colleges and universities still have a moral imperative and the legal ability to ensure that their doors are open equally to all students, including Black, Latinx, Native American, Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Asian American applicants. Even under the terms of this unfortunate decision, all students continue to have the freedom and opportunity to have their full identities, including the impact of race on their lived experiences, considered when seeking admissions to institutions of higher education.”

Marita Etcubañez, vice president of strategic initiatives, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC, said:

“Today marks a new beginning, not an end to our fight for racial equity in higher education. We are outraged that the Supreme Court has chosen to support racial inequity that harms Asian Americans and all people of color. But we are more committed than ever to ensuring equal opportunity for all children in this country. I have a specific message for those Asian Americans who joined SFFA in this court case who believed you were being discriminated against. I am now calling you to join our movement to ensure that no student in a community of color is discriminated against or marginalized because of this ruling. You have an obligation to help create a new and better system than the one you helped to dismantle. This includes ensuring that all students have the same opportunities for higher education, notwithstanding barriers erected by systemic racism. To the Black, Latino, Native American or Asian Americans who have encountered systemic barriers to educational opportunities, we will not let this court decision keep us from pushing colleges and universities, Congress, and others to keep today’s ruling from undermining the progress made toward educating future multiracial, talented leaders who deserve every opportunity to reach their highest potential on campuses that reflect the diversity of America.”

Lourdes Rosado, president and general counsel, LatinoJustice, said:

“In saying that their decision on race-conscious admissions upholds Constitutional equal protections for students, the majority of the Supreme Court has taken a disingenuous and mistaken stance on how our society will move to eliminate racial discrimination in schools and elsewhere. As Justice Sotomayor so eloquently stated in her dissent, the Court’s holding ‘subverts’ the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection and will only further entrench racial inequality in education, the bedrock of our democracy. Our Constitution is not color-blind, but the Court’s decision mistakes consideration of our country’s racial history and how it has set in place intractable structures of inequality with unfair treatment. Rejecting decades of precedent that have made meaningful and measurable improvements in opening the gateway of opportunity to more young people, today’s decision could have a profound effect on the futures available to Latinos and other students of color. We will not back away from our youth and from our commitment to brace open the doors of opportunity for all students who deserve a fair shot at higher education. This has been a core part of our mission for five decades and will not end today.”

David Hinojosa, director, Educational Opportunities Project, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said: 

“Today’s decision is a travesty of justice. We know that in law there is both art and science to the law. This Court’s decision puts a lot more art into the law by ignoring well-established precedent of more than 40 years. But as bad as the decision is, Chief Justice Roberts said himself, ‘all parties agree nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s decision of how race affected their life.’ So there are paths forward to ensure racial equity in higher education. And we will pursue every avenue to hold universities accountable under federal civil rights laws, to reinstate a fair admissions process, where students’ identities are celebrated, not shunned.”

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 250 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its member organizations, visit

 The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to mobilize the nation’s leading lawyers as agents for change in the Civil Rights Movement. Today, the Lawyers’ Committee uses legal advocacy to achieve racial justice, fighting inside and outside the courts to ensure that Black people and other people of color have the voice, opportunity, and power to make the promises of our democracy real. For more information, please visit

 Founded in 1940, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is the nation’s first civil rights law organization. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Please note that LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights.

 Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC has a mission to advance the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and to build and promote a fair and equitable society for all. Visit our website at

LatinoJustice PRLDEF works to create a more just society by using and challenging the rule of law to secure transformative, equitable and accessible justice, by empowering our community and by fostering leadership through advocacy and education. For 50 years, LatinoJustice PRLDEF has acted as an advocate against injustices throughout the country. To learn more about LatinoJustice, visit