June 29, 2023
Today, the United States Supreme Court released its ruling in two cases, “Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. (SFAI) v. President and Fellows of Harvard” and “SFAI v. University of North Carolina.” In 6-2 and 6-3 votes respectively, the court ruled that these universities’ race-conscious admission policies constitute illegal discrimination, in violation of the U.S. Constitution. This decision effectively overturns rulings dating as far back as the 1978 “Regents of the University of California v. Bakke” case, which held that universities have a compelling interest to seek a diverse student body and therefore may include race as one of several factors when selecting among qualified applicants. In the two dissenting opinions, Justice Sonia Sotomayor for the Harvard case and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson for the University of North Carolina case stated that today’s ruling will usher in a significant and negative impact on equity in higher education in the U.S. Justice Sotomayor noted that “Today, this court stands in the way and rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress.”
This Supreme Court decision conflicts with ASEE’s mission “to advance innovation, excellence, and access at all levels for the engineering profession,” as well as ASEE’s core values of excellence, engagement, innovation, integrity, diversity, and inclusion. This decision impedes our members’ collective ability to recruit, support, educate, and graduate the diverse communities of students in the United States. Research shows that replacing race-conscious admissions policies with other proxies, such as class-conscious admissions, or nothing at all, is inadequate to achieve equal access and opportunity. The goal of race-conscious admissions has been to redress centuries of governmental and institutional slavery, segregation, and discrimination, which legally encoded a color line in housing, employment, finance, and education, including engineering education.
Our nation faces a wide range of complex problems every day, along with rapidly growing engineering workforce needs. We should be re-doubling our efforts to realize diversity, equity, and inclusion in college admissions and education, welcoming all of our country’s engineering talent onto our campuses and into our workplaces.
ASEE’s goals and values in support of diversity, equity, and inclusion have not changed. We are preparing recommendations for our members and member institutions to leverage our collective credibility, authority, and standing as engineers to act and ensure pathways into our profession that are accessible to all. In the meantime, we call on the ASEE community to actively engage in care and solidarity, centering minoritized and marginalized members, during this time of hurt and concern for the future.
ASEE Executive Committee:
Doug Tougaw, PhD
Grant Crawford, PhD
Jenna P. Carpenter, PhD
Immediate Past President
Elliot Douglas, PhD
First Vice President, Vice President of Professional Interest Councils
Martin Gordon, PE, DFE
Vice President of External Relations
Teri Reed, PhD
Vice President of Finance
Carrie Berger, PhD
Vice President of Institutional Councils
Christi Patton Luks, PhD
Vice President of Member Affairs
Donna Riley, PhD
Vice President of Scholarship
Jacqueline El-Sayed, PhD
Chief Executive Officer/Executive Director