The highly anticipated U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down affirmative action in college admissions drew divergent reactions from Long Islanders Thursday, with many expressing disappointment but others applauding the high court’s ruling.
In cases involving Harvard and the University of North Carolina, the court found race-conscious admissions policies violate the Constitution.
Joshua Chan, a Brentwood High School graduate who attends the State University at Albany, called the court’s decision disheartening. He said a race-blind admissions standard fails to account for the barriers students of color often face.
“I’m not surprised but it’s like a gut punch,” said Chan, 21. “It seems like America is going backward.”
WHAT TO KNOW
- The highly anticipated ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that race-conscious admissions policies are unconstitutional drew divergent reactions from Long Islanders.
- Some applauded the high court’s decision while others expressed disappointment and anger.
- One student who backs affirmative action called the decision a "gut punch," while a Republican state legislator welcomed the ruling, calling it "a long time coming."
Chan, who is Latino, said "being colorblind is great, but at the same time we need to be anti-racist …, especially in college admissions because predominantly the people who have been left out of college admissions are people of color.”
But Gordon Zhang, president of the nonprofit Long Island Chinese American Association, said he was "very happy" with the court's decision.
Zhang said he’s not against affirmative action, but argued race-conscious admissions have led to discrimination against some applicants, in particular those who are Asian American.
“It’s a victory for all Americans, not just Asian Americans,” Zhang said. “Finally, the younger generation of Asian American students will have equal opportunities.”
A Pew Research Center survey released earlier this month found that half of Americans disapprove of selective colleges considering applicants’ race in admission decisions while only a third approve.
Both perspectives were evident in comments by Long Islanders and other New Yorkers Thursday.
Dafny Irizarry, president of the Long Island Latino Teachers Association, said the decision would squeeze teacher pipelines from colleges and universities.
“You're going to end up with a larger gap when it comes to teachers of color not being able to enroll, graduate and being hired later on,” Irizarry said. “There's a domino effect. And who does that impact? Students. It's been documented that student teachers' race has an impact in student achievement.”
Tracey Edwards, Long Island regional director for the NAACP, referred a reporter to a statement by NAACP President & CEO Derrick Johnson.
“Affirmative action exists because we cannot rely on colleges, universities, and employers to enact admissions and hiring practices that embrace diversity, equity and inclusion,” Johnson said. “Race plays an undeniable role in shaping the identities of and quality of life for Black Americans. In a society still scarred by the wounds of racial disparities, the Supreme Court has displayed a willful ignorance of our reality.”
New York State Assemb. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) said the court's decision was “a long time coming. I think it’s the correct decision. I just don’t think it’s right to base admissions on race.”
Fitzpatrick said he understood what backers of affirmative action “want to do, but the better route is to give parents school choice and charter schools … Let the money flow with the student and you won’t need affirmative action.”
Former Rep. Pete King (R-Seaford) said the college admission process should be “race-neutral.”
King continued: “Once you start making a decision based on race, it's just another form of racial discrimination.”
Suffolk County GOP Chairman Jesse Garcia said the "Supreme Court has taken steps to make sure that we have a system that is balanced equal and fair to all … " Americans, he said, "are open minded. We want equality and balance for all. And I believe that's what the Supreme Court ruled today.”
But Art Chang, board chairman of the Coalition for Asian Children and Families, a nonprofit Asian American and Pacific Islander advocacy group in Manhattan, said in a statement the ruling was “not a victory for AAPI on whose behalf this lawsuit was purportedly filed, rather it is a loss for our community.”
Chang continued: "The divides among our diverse communities will grow and further isolate AAPI students by depriving them of the true diversity of our America … This litigation was never about fairness to Asian Americans, rather it is about advancing the interests of whites. The real winners are those who can afford tutoring, test prep, and private schools."
Despite the debate over the decision, local college administrators and academic experts said the ruling most likely would have a limited effect on local colleges and universities, given many have a diverse applicant pool, high acceptance rates and do not consider race as a factor in admissions.
“The expectation is this is going to have a greater impact on those that are more selective in nature,” said Tiffany Graham, an associate professor of law and the associate dean of diversity and inclusion at Touro University, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center in Central Islip.
“As a practical matter, affirmative action is most relevant when you are talking about highly selective schools,” Graham said. “So it's going to be an issue at say, Columbia and NYU.”
David Cohen, President of Five Towns College in Dix Hills, said, “It's at the elite institutions where they have so many applications for so few seats that race really becomes a major factor.”
Kristen Capezza, vice president of enrollment management and communications at Adelphi University, said the school does not use race as a factor.
“Race-conscious admissions policies are most often found at the most selective institutions, not so much at institutions like Adelphi and some of our immediate peers that are our neighbors who are admitting the majority of applicants who are academically qualified,” she said.
“In one sense, we're a little bit more fortunate in that we're going to be spared any major impact from this court decision,” Capezza said. “I think we're in a better position to weather this unfortunate decision.”
With Vera Chinese and Michael Gormley
Other institutions' reactions:
- The State University of New York: Chancellor John King and SUNY board of trustees said in a statement: “The commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion will continue to be a factor in every goal we pursue, every program we create, every policy we promulgate, and every decision we make.”
- SUNY Old Westbury: President Timothy Sams wrote in a campus message that he fears the court decision may have a chilling effect among Black and brown students, and the “unfortunate ruling underscores my ongoing insistence that the world needs OW graduates now more than ever.”
- Farmingdale State College: The school is a "majority minority" institution that is representative of the diversity of Long Island and the metropolitan area.
- Stony Brook University: The school has recognized that “a diverse and inclusive campus community is vital for meaningful educational experiences, as well as student growth and success in an increasingly diverse and global workforce.”
- Hofstra University: President Susan Poser said in a statement the university will continue to follow “a holistic admissions process.”
- Molloy University: The school doesn’t expect this ruling to have “a tangible impact” in its admissions process.
- New York Institute of Technology: The school “does not need to consider race in admissions because we work hard to attract a talented pool of applicants who represent communities of color.”
- St. Joseph's University, New York: The school does not calculate race in the admissions process but practices “a holistic approach” to admissions.