How Supreme Court's affirmative action ruling can impact California colleges, universities

As the Fourth of July holiday approaches, many college and university campuses are nearly empty. Nonetheless, the impact of the Supreme Court's ruling on affirmative action is a lesson for current and prospective students on the far-reaching consequences the decision could have.

Amidst high temperatures on Thursday, students from Clairemont High School in San Diego toured San Jose State University's campus. Their discussions that day were dominated by the recent high court ruling, prohibiting affirmative action in higher education.

"I think that had the cards been dealt some other way, it very well could have come out a different way for me had I gone to Harvard, UNC, or the University of Texas at Austin for law school, because these schools do use race-conscience admissions," said Traelon Rodgers, a third year law student at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that invalidated the consideration of race as a factor in admissions for higher education. The decision followed a lawsuit filed by a student who was denied admission to Harvard University.

"Affirmative action is a well-intentioned idea that is poorly executed in reality. Thus, it is my hope to see a renewed college admissions system," said plaintiff Calvin Yang.

Rodgers said he is aware of the suit and believes that Yang and the high court are misguided in these efforts.

"I think the court was very clear today that the only enemy they care about in school admissions, is race," he said.

Since 1996, California Proposition 209 has prevented state colleges and universities from including race as a consideration in admissions. Despite this, many educators extol the value of including race as one factor to broaden diversity.

The ruling elicited palpable reactions from four prominent Bay Area institutions of higher education.


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"This is going to have a backlash effect, very much like the book banning, and the curriculum banning that’s going on around race. It will no doubt have some influence in affirmative action in some other areas," said Professor Margaret Russell, of Santa Clara University School of Law.

Added Dr. Maria Ledesma, of the San Jose State Department of Educational Leadership, "We’ve never really recovered from the dramatic drop that happened after Proposition 209. Especially with the application and enrollment of African-American students."

In a statement to KTVU, Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne said the Supreme Court ruling, "upends the long-standing practice of race-conscience university admissions to help achieve a diverse student body… Our task is to respond in ways that allow Stanford to continue expanding opportunity…in a diverse and changing world."

Dr. Michael Drake, president of the University of California said, "We saw this coming. And we began using alternate means to make sure our classrooms are (diverse).

The overriding concern is that although the court's ruling will not directly affect California, it will have an impact on the diversity of students within its colleges, particularly those pursuing masters and Ph.D. programs, which serve as the foundational building blocks for the future generation of leaders.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on Twitter, @JesseKTVU and on Instagram, @jessegontv.