Mission-Driven

A message from Santa Clara President Julie Sullivan on the U.S. Supreme Court decision on affirmative action.

Mission-Driven

For nearly six decades, affirmative action shaped the U.S. higher education landscape we know today. Since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, many college admissions departments considered factors such as race, ethnicity, national origin, and sex when admitting new students. It’s a recognition that unequal access to K-12 education opportunities make the road to college that much steeper for students from marginalized communities.

On June 29, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down race-conscious admissions policies at colleges and universities. While this wasn’t the first ban on affirmative action in higher education—here in California, for example, public colleges have been banned from utilizing affirmative action since 1996—this is a total ban on a federal level, affecting both public and private schools throughout the country.

Private schools such as Santa Clara University were especially anxious about the toll the Court’s decision would take on long-running efforts to diversify their student bodies, and therefore the future workforce. When the ruling came down, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) and schools within AJCU released statements decrying the decision and pledging to honor their commitment to supporting the educational aspirations of all in order to build a more just, equitable society.

Santa Clara President Julie Sullivan released the following:

Santa Clara University is deeply disappointed in today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, which effectively outlaws the consideration of race in university admissions nationwide. At the core of our values and beliefs is the promotion and respect of the dignity of every human person in their fullness as a creation of God. Our diversity, including race, is a part of our human identity. Today’s decision therefore places a substantial burden on our freedom to recognize aspiring and current students as “whole” human beings.

As a Jesuit, Catholic university, creating equitable, inclusive, and diverse communities that enrich our campus learning environment is foundational to our faith-based mission. Our holistic admissions approach aims to ensure that talented and promising students from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences form our campus communities. Uniting students from all walks of life— with unique lived experiences that often intersect with race—is essential to fostering dialogue, discourse, and inquiry that deepen our understanding of the world and human identities. It is consistent with our Jesuit calling of cura personalis, which calls upon us to treat our aspiring and current students as “whole” human beings, whose identities include their diverse racial backgrounds.

True to our mission, we will continue to actively pursue all legally permissible avenues to build the diverse and accomplished student body our campus and our world needs. Among other actions, we will build upon our outreach and partnerships with community colleges and other pipelines that help us reach outstanding students to enrich our campus.

The University’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion has been underway for some time. In her first year in office, President Sullivan significantly expanded SCU’s outreach and scholarship programs, including new partnerships with the California Private College Alliance and Association of Independent California Colleges, the American Talent Initiative, the Posse Foundation, and others. She also committed SCU to becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution, to continue the University’s progress increasing Hispanic student enrollment.

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