Statement on Supreme Court decision regarding college admissions

Dear Campus Community,

We are disheartened by today's U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down Harvard and the University of North Carolina’s use of race as a factor in their admissions processes. Taken together with other federal and state actions across the country, today’s decision is not simply about admissions, but the latest attempt to dismantle evidence-based efforts aimed at reducing systemic barriers to opportunity experienced by historically marginalized populations, including communities of color. We agree with Justice Sotomayor's assessment that the court “cements a superficial rule of colorblindness as a constitutional principle in an endemically segregated society where race has always mattered and continues to matter."

The court, in SFFA, Inc. v. Pres. and Fellows of Harvard College, effectively overturned Grutter v. Bollinger, a 2003 decision that allowed public universities to consider race as one factor to achieve educational diversity. The decision today will thwart efforts by public and private institutions across the country to educate a diverse population of students. That is harmful to higher education and ultimately our nation. Students with varied experiences and perspectives enrich our communities, expand our awareness and foster students learning from each other. A diverse student body also strengthens institutions academically, as groups composed of people with diverse experiences and backgrounds have been shown to be more creative and innovative, assets valued by the companies that hire college graduates. Most importantly, the court’s ruling threatens to further disenfranchise members of certain groups historically excluded from higher education, limiting their opportunities to achieve their dreams and thrive.

The impact of this decision undoubtedly hits harder on institutions that have not already had to adapt to laws such as Proposition 209 in California. The University of California has more than a quarter-century of experience in evaluating prospective students in a race-neutral manner. When that referendum passed in 1996, the levels of underrepresented student groups tumbled. In the years since the passage of Proposition 209, the UC system and our campus specifically have implemented numerous measures within the law designed to create student cohorts as diverse as California itself. Our efforts include extensive outreach and recruitment programs directed at low-income students and students from families with little college experience, and adopting a student-assessment approach that allows evaluators to review students within the context of the opportunities they’ve had and the challenges they’ve faced. While we have not achieved pre-Proposition 209 levels on every front, we have seen significant progress. This is not easy work, but it is vital.

Access and opportunity for all are at the heart of a public university’s mission. While today’s court decision requires universities across the country to follow this new interpretation of the law, it also requires campus administrators, faculty, and staff to continue our efforts to expand outreach and opportunity in whatever ways we can. We proudly affirm that UC Santa Cruz will continue to be a leader in creating environments in which all students can grow and thrive.

Cynthia Larive

Lori Kletzer
Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor