Illinois lawmakers react to SCOTUS decision ending affirmative action in universities



(The Center Square) – The United States Supreme Court voted to overturn affirmative action in colleges and universities, ending the use of race as a factor in admissions. Illinois lawmakers are split on what it means.

Affirmative action became law in the U.S. in 1961 as a way to combat racial discrimination in the hiring process and when applying for colleges.

Thursday’s decision in the case Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College came down by a 6-3 vote. Chief Justice John Roberts gave his opinion on the decision.

“A benefit to a student who overcame racial discrimination, for example, must be tied to that student’s courage and determination. Or a benefit to a student whose herit­age or culture motivated him or her to assume a leadership role or attain a particular goal must be tied to that student’s unique ability to contribute to the university. In other words, the student must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual, not on the basis of race,” Roberts said.

After the decision was released, the Illinois State Board of Higher Education released a statement condemning the outcome.

“This ruling is an attack on people of color, particularly Black people, who face discrimination through multiple facets of American society. Affirmative action already was not a robust solution. It was merely a tool that intended to chip away at an enormous obstacle,” the statement reads. “It is disheartening to know that there are people intent on stifling racial equity at a time when we should all be working together to break down barriers because that is the right thing to do.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said students of color will always be welcomed in the state of Illinois.

“This decision only sets us back. But here in the Land of Lincoln and [Barack] Obama, we will continue to uplift our students of color, promoting inclusion and expanding access through record levels of funding for higher education institutions and our MAP Grant Program so that every student has the opportunity to earn a degree,” Pritzker said. “To students of color throughout the Land of Lincoln and the entire United States: you belong in our institutions. And no archaic ruling will ever change that.”

Some Republican lawmakers praised the court’s decision and said no student should be helped or hurt by the color of their skin.

State Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville, said this is about fairness for all.

“This ruling is about fairness. Students deserve equal access and equal opportunity. Disregarding applicants simply on the basis of race is wrong,” Halbrook told The Center Square. “It is time these unfair policies were rescinded. The Supreme Court ruling today was the right one.”

State Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, said racism in the country is not over.

“I think that we have not passed racism in this country, and I think there will be some unintended consequences from the Supreme Court’s ruling,” Ford said. “When you look at some of our colleges and universities, we are still struggling to have the highest level of diversity.”

State Rep. Charlie Meier, R-Okawville, told The Center Square that affirmative action had kept many white students out of colleges.

“Today, overturning of the ruling is justifiable,” Meier said. “Its gotten to the point where many students here that are white no longer can get into college.”

The most recent IBHE report on “Illinois Higher Education Enrollment Landscape” breaks down applicants to Illinois public universities by race. Of a total 106,400 applicants, 28,500 were white. Around 23,400 were international. The African American category came in at 10,900. Asian applicants totaled 18,900.



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