Two Utah professors react to Supreme Court ruling ending affirmative action in college admissions

Jun 29, 2023, 7:00 PM

Affirmative action...

FILE - Members of the Supreme Court sit for a new group portrait following the addition of Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, at the Supreme Court building in Washington, Oct. 7, 2022. Bottom row, from left, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts, Associate Justice Samuel Alito, and Associate Justice Elena Kagan. Top row, from left, Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — Two Utah professors weigh in after the U.S. Supreme Court ended affirmative action admission policies based primarily on race at American colleges and universities.

Along its 6-3 conservative line, the Supreme Court on Thursday ended, in a landmark decision. It put an end to decades of affirmative action in college admissions, ruling that race alone can no longer be a basis for entering colleges and universities. 

The court’s three liberals defended the practice, which the Supreme Court has upheld in its decisions dating back to 1978. They slammed the opinion in their dissent, saying the decision will make it practically impossible for colleges and universities to take race into account, as reported by CNN.

Specifically, the court’s conservative majority overturned admissions plans at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, the nation’s oldest private and public colleges, respectively, according to the Associated Press.

The consenting justices ruled both universities’ programs violated the Equal Protection Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment and were therefore unconstitutional.

What does the college admission process look like after ending affirmative action?

Dave & Dujanovic‘s guest hosts Greg Skordas and Derek Brown are joined by Paul Cassell, a law professor at the S.J. Quinney School of Law at the University of Utah. They discuss the affirmative-action ruling.

Later, state Sen. John Johnson shares his thoughts on the decision.

“You’re in a university setting. Tell us what this means in terms of admissions — like what will change moving forward,” Brown asked.

Cassell said the court found that both universities made race a predominant or deciding factor in admissions. They did this instead of considering applicants holistically.

“They simply — I think the disparaging phrase is ‘did bean counting’ to make sure they had a precise number of various underrepresented groups,” Cassell says. “What today’s decision says is you can’t come up with a percentage of minority groups that you want to be represented in your entering class and then work backwards and fill those spots.”

The admission process can still consider applicants who have faced discrimination or have a disadvantaged background. However, it can’t be based on race alone, according to Cassell.

“There are many people who face discrimination, for various reasons,” he said. “And all of those reasons have to be taken into account.”

Implications outside of universities

Although the court’s decision is within the context of higher education, Cassell added major corporations that use race-based components in employment should probably now take a harder look at how they hire workers.

“I think after today’s decision decisively striking down affirmative action in the higher-education context, there’s going to be follow-up litigation in other settings,” he says. “I would predict — this isn’t a bold prediction, but I think an obvious prediction — that those kinds of programs will be struck down if they are overtly making race the decisive consideration for, let’s say, employment, promotions and other things of that nature.”

Ruling moves nation in a positive direction, says USU professor

Sen. John Johnson, who represents Morgan, Summit and Weber counties, is a professor at Utah State University and leads the Senate Education Committee. He joins Skordas and Brown to discuss the Supreme Court ruling.

“My personal opinion is these diversity programs actually have gone a little bit too far,” he says. “Students now have to write a diversity statement in order to get into graduate school.”

“It seems like the idea behind affirmative action . . . was good, but maybe this is a step back to say, ‘Wait a minute, it does fly in the face of equal protection, and maybe we need to just be fair and across the board,'” Skordas says. “So I take it that you’re not particularly upset by this opinion today?”

“No. In fact, I think it’s moving in a positive direction,” Johnson said. “Look, this isn’t about white supremacy or anything else. This [lawsuit] was brought by Asian students, right? This is about equal protection under the law.”

Listen to Dave & Dujanovic on weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon.

Related: After Supreme Court rulings, advocates fear losses for racial equality

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Crime, Police + Courts

Jorge Rafael Medina-Reyes pleaded guilty on Thursday to the kidnapping and murder of Nicole Solorio...

Emily Ashcraft,

Second man pleads guilty to kidnapping, murder of Kearns woman in 2021

Jorge Rafael Medina-Reyes, 25, pleaded guilty Thursday to murder, a first-degree felony, and aggravated kidnapping, a first-degree felony.

3 hours ago

american fork police in front of home where couple was found dead...

Sam Herrera

Couple found dead in American Fork home identified

American Fork Police identified 57-year-old Olin Johnson and his wife, 52-year-old Kerilyn Johnson, as the couple found dead in their home on Thursday.

7 hours ago

washington city murders suspect...

Pat Reavy,

Southern Utah woman charged with aggravated murder; prosecutors won’t seek death penalty

A 28-year-old woman accused of brutally killing her parents in their home is now facing 11 felony charges, including 10 first-degree felonies.

7 hours ago

police look for hit-and-run driver, image of the car, a newer model Ford Explorer SUV , shown...

Heather Peterson

SLCPD asks for help finding hit-and-run driver

Salt Lake City Police are looking for a hit-and-run driver involved in an accident last week that left a woman severely injured.

10 hours ago

Grocery store shooting...

Amie Schaeffer

3 dead, 10 wounded in Arkansas grocery store shooting

Two people are dead and several were wounded in a Arkansas grocery store shooting Friday afternoon. The shooter was also badly wounded.

10 hours ago

a 17-year-old boy is facing a charge of murder and 18 other felonies tied to a gang-related drive-b...

Pat Reavy,

Teen faces 19 felonies in gang-related drive-by shooting death in Murray

A 17-year-old boy is facing 19 felony charges accusing him of participating in a drive-by shooting that left one dead and others injured.

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Underwater shot of the fisherman holding the fish...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Your Bear Lake fishing guide

Bear Lake offers year-round fishing opportunities. By preparing ahead of time, you might go home with a big catch!

A group of people cut a purple ribbon...


Comcast announces major fiber network expansion in Utah

Comcast's commitment to delivering extensive coverage signifies a monumental leap toward a digitally empowered future for Utahns.

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.


Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Two Utah professors react to Supreme Court ruling ending affirmative action in college admissions