In full transparency, the following is a press release submitted to SOURCE media from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office. (stock photo)
BOSTON — Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today, August 1, led a coalition of 20 attorneys general in filing a multi-state amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to reject a request to overturn more than four decades of precedent allowing higher education institutions to consider race or ethnicity as part of holistic admissions processes to promote diversity in learning environments.
The brief, filed in the cases Students For Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College and Students For Fair Admissions, Inc v. University of North Carolina, urges the Court to reaffirm its prior rulings in Grutter v. Bollinger, Gratz v. Bollinger, and Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin that found that a holistic race-conscious admissions policy is constitutional when necessary to achieve the compelling governmental interest of conferring on students the educational benefits of diversity. In the brief, the states contend that the ability to work and serve diverse populations is critical to meeting the needs of their residents – in delivering health care, in educating students, and leading and staffing businesses and government institutions.
“Now, more than ever, it’s critical that our students – future doctors and nurses, teachers, and business and community leaders – come from all backgrounds and learn in a diverse educational environment,” AG Healey said. “We are urging the Court to uphold four decades of precedent allowing our educational institutions to foster diversity in our schools. Diversity of thought, background and experience strengthens us as a society.”
According to the brief, the benefits of diversity in higher education have become more and more critical to states when graduates join the workforce, participate in civic life and take on leadership roles. The brief describes how diversity in the healthcare workforce improves health outcomes and access for all residents – particularly for those in medically underserved communities. Additionally, increasing the diversity of primary school educators improves the academic performance of public school students and college attendance rates. The states also argue that the businesses that fuel their economies rely on a diverse pipeline of graduates who have the potential to bring differing perspectives to leadership positions in their fields.
The brief highlights disparities that reversing this precedent will exacerbate. For example, while Black Americans make up nearly 13 percent of the country’s population, as recently as 2018, only 5.4 percent of physicians are Black, and, according to the brief, prohibiting medical schools from implementing a race-conscious admissions program could worsen these disparities. In fact, the brief points out that medical schools in states that have bans on race-conscious admissions programs have seen a 37 percent decrease in enrollment from historically underrepresented communities.
The brief also describes how, nationally, nearly 80 percent of educators are white and non-Hispanic, but 54 percent of students in public primary and secondary schools were students of color in 2020.
In Massachusetts, nearly 40 percent of primary and secondary students are students of color, and just 10 percent of teachers are people of color.
Given these disparities, the growing diversity in our country, and the educational benefits of a diverse teaching workforce, states need every option available to increase the diversity of educators. Removing the possibility of using holistic race-conscious admissions where necessary will be detrimental to future generations of students.
The states further argue in their brief that their democratic and civic institutions gain strength and legitimacy when graduates bring diverse backgrounds and experiences to leadership positions across our country. “We need to cultivate diverse leaders from and for every corner of our states, to serve in positions of leadership in our governments – whether as legislators, judges, mayors, city councilors, sheriffs, or any of the other elected and non-elected officials who together govern our communities.”
Finally, the states describe how achieving meaningful student-body diversity while altogether excluding any consideration of race has proven challenging in states with bans on race-conscious admissions, particularly at selective institutions that produce so many of the states’ civic, professional, and business leaders. Accordingly, the states argue, institutions of higher education continue to require the flexibility, where necessary, to use the kind of holistic race-conscious admissions policies that the Supreme Court has approved for decades.
Today’s brief was handled by State Solicitor Bessie Dewar and Assistant Attorneys General Ann Lynch and David Ureña of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and joined by the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin.