Biden slams SC verdict barring race to be considered as factor in college admissions | World News - Hindustan Times
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Biden slams SC verdict barring race to be considered as factor in college admissions

Jun 29, 2023 11:12 PM IST

Joe Biden has said it rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress, termed it severely disappointing, and asked colleges to consider the adversity a student had overcome in determining admissions

Washington: Slamming the US Supreme Court’s decision barring race to be considered as a factor in college admissions, President Joe Biden has said it rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress, termed it severely disappointing, and asked colleges to consider the adversity a student had overcome in determining admissions and continue their quest to create racially diverse student bodies.

President Joe Biden speaks on the Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action in college admissions in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, in Washington, on Thursday. (AP)
President Joe Biden speaks on the Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action in college admissions in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, in Washington, on Thursday. (AP)

In defining the adversity a student had overcome, Biden asked colleges to consider the financial means of students and their families, where a student grew up and went to high school, and the personal experiences of hardship including “racial discrimination”.

Biden also clarified that affirmative action did not mean preferring the unqualified over the qualified, but while choosing from those already qualified, factoring in race among other parameters. He strongly defended the idea of diversity, in colleges, companies, armed forces, and acknowledged that there continued to be discrimination in the US which had to be addressed.

Biden was speaking at the White House on Thursday, hours after the SC delivered its verdict, with six judges declaring that race cannot be a factor in determining admissions as it violated the provision of equal protection under law, while three liberal judges held that not considering race in an unequal society will perpetuate inequality.

In his remarks, Biden backed the dissenting judgment and said, “For 45 years, the Supreme Court recognised that colleges were free to use race not as the determining factor but as one of the factors among many among the qualified pool of applicants…The court has ended affirmative action in college admissions and I disagree with that decision.”

He said that many people “wrongly believed” that affirmative action means admitting unqualified students over qualified students. “That’s not how it works. Colleges set up standards, every student has to meet standards and then they look at other factors.” The President said one of America’s greatest strengths was diversity and cited the example of the American military, “the finest fighting force in the history of the world” as a model of diversity. “Colleges are stronger when they are racially diverse. The nation is stronger.”

Biden said that while talent, creativity and hard work could be found everywhere, equal opportunity was not everywhere. He pointed out that students belonging to families earning the top one percent of incomes were 77% more likely to gain admission to elite institutions than those belonging to the bottom 20% of family incomes on the wealth ladder. “We cannot let this decision be the last word. We can’t change what America stands for…giving everyone a fair shot. We have never lived up to it fully, but we have never walked away from it.”

Biden then offered guidance to colleges in a manner that was consistent with the judgment but also used loopholes embedded in it. The President said colleges must not abandon their commitment to ensuring diverse student bodies. “I propose a consideration - the adversity a student has overcome. They must first be qualified applicants and meet grades and test scores; once that is met, then diversity should be considered, including the student’s lack of financial means…where student grew up and went to high school, and hardships the student faced, including racial discrimination.

“Discrimination still exists in America,” Biden said thrice, adding that the SC decision didn’t change that.

The White House was quite clearly prepared for the verdict, for minutes after Biden spoke, it issued a factsheet about the actions the administration was taking to offset its impact. The White House said that the administration was providing colleges and universities with clarity on what admission practices and additional programmes to support students remained lawful; it was convening a national summit on educational opportunity; it was releasing a report on strategies to increase diversity and educational opportunity, including “meaningful consideration of adversity”; increasing transparency in college admissions and enrollment practices; and supporting states in analysing data to increase access to educational opportunities for under served communities.

As Biden was walking out, he was asked if this was a rogue court; the President responded, “It isn’t a normal court.”

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