The following FAQs focus on what the Supreme Court decision in Students for Fair Admission v. President and Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admission v. University of North Carolina means for Brown. 

  1. How did the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the cases Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina affect the law with regard to the consideration of race in admissions in higher education?
    The Supreme Court held that both Harvard’s and the University of North Carolina’s race-conscious admissions programs were unlawful. Chief Justice John G. Roberts wrote for a majority of the Court that the manner in which Harvard and UNC considered race in admissions discriminated on the basis of race in violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. While the goal of a diverse student body was deemed to be “commendable,” the Court held that the benefits are not measurable and thus are not able to be reviewed by a court. Further, the Court held that any race-conscious program must have a defined endpoint, which Harvard and UNC did not establish. The opinion stated that the 25-year term for continuing the use of race in admissions articulated in the Supreme Court’s prior Grutter v. Bollinger decision would be a logical endpoint for allowing the consideration of race in admission decisions. (June 2023 marked 20 years since that previous Court decision.)
  2. Does the Supreme Court’s decision apply to private higher education institutions like Brown?
    The Court’s decision applies to private and public colleges and universities. 
  3. When does the Court’s decision go into effect?
    The Supreme Court’s decision was effective the date it issued its ruling, June 29, 2023. Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s concurring opinion suggests that it applies to classes that will matriculate in the fall of 2024.
  4. Will colleges and universities be permitted to consider an applicant's race or ethnicity at any point when making admission decisions? 
    The Supreme Court held that consideration of “race for race’s sake” is unlawful. Universities may consider “an applicant’s discussion of how race affected the applicant’s life, so long as that discussion is concretely tied to a quality or character or unique ability that the particular applicant can contribute to the university.” The examples from the decision are as follows: “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.”
  5. Does the decision apply only to Brown’s undergraduate program?
    No, the Court’s ruling applies to all programs that involve an admissions decision, regardless of the student population involved. In addition to Brown’s undergraduate program, it applies to admissions for graduate and medical programs, certificate programs and programs for K-12 students. 
  6. How does the Supreme Court’s decision affect other factors considered in admission decisions that relate to the diversity of the student body, such as veteran status, geography, socioeconomic background or first-generation status?
    The decision is only applicable to consideration of race in college or university admission decisions.
  7. If I manage a program that has an application process, what steps should I be taking to ensure compliance with the Supreme Court’s decision?
    Please consult with Brown’s Office of the General Counsel (OGC) by reaching out to [email protected].
  8. How will the Court’s decision affect the diversity that is core to Brown’s educational mission?
    The University is committed to complying with the law, while also sustaining the diversity that is central to Brown’s mission. Brown maintains that advancing diversity is central to achieving the highest standards of academic excellence and preparing our students to grow and lead in a complex world. Diversity confers unmatched educational benefits. 
  9. What did the Court say about holistic review of applicants in the admission process?
    Brown has long practiced a holistic, or “whole person” review of each applicant in the admission process. The majority opinion of the Court constituted a strong endorsement for this individualized review, clarifying that nothing in the opinion limited consideration of an individual's personal experiences related to race. Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor's dissenting opinion observed that "today's decision leaves intact holistic college admissions and recruitment efforts that seek to enroll diverse classes without using racial classifications."
  10. How does the decision impact recruiting efforts to encourage students to apply to Brown, and efforts to yield students (encourage students to accept Brown’s offer of admission) after they have been admitted?
    The majority opinion addressed only the question of "whether a university may make admissions decisions that turn on an applicant's race." The White House has stated that the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education will provide guidance on lawful admissions practices by mid-August 2023, and the U.S. Department of Education will provide guidance on administering programs to support students from underrepresented populations. We will provide further information on efforts to encourage applications and increase yields after we have additional guidance.
  11. Does the ruling have any effect on Brown’s affinity centers or programs that celebrate and support historically underrepresented communities? Are race-themed programs and activities permissible?
    As in the past, race-themed programs, activities and affinity centers are permissible, provided that race is not an eligibility criterion for participation. Programs may focus attention on supporting individuals or communities of a particular race or background, provided that they have race-neutral eligibility criteria. Similarly, race cannot be a factor in the eligibility of students to receive awards, prizes, internships or campus jobs.
  12. Does the Court’s decision change employment practices?
    The issue before the Court was race-conscious student admission programs. Employment practices remain unchanged by the Court’s decision and are subject to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination against job applicants and employees on the basis of race, color, religion, sex and national origin. As in the past, Brown can actively work to increase the diversity of its applicant pool for faculty, staff and postdoc positions, but cannot take into account any of the factors listed above in the actual hiring decision. To assist hiring managers and search committee leaders in recruiting a diverse applicant pool while complying with the law, Brown’s Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity offers detailed guides to diversifying staff searches and faculty searches.
  13. Does the Court’s decision have any impact on the University’s efforts and goals for diversity, stewarded by the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity? Should academic and administrative units across Brown sustain their work on Departmental Diversity and Inclusion Action Plans (DDIAPs)?
    The University’s commitment to diversity is firm and unchanged as Brown continues to build a diverse and inclusive environment to sustain and strengthen academic excellence in compliance with the law. Efforts to complete and implement departmental DIAPs should continue unabated. 
  14. Who do I contact if I have more questions?
    If you operate a program or activity that may be impacted by the Court’s decision and have more questions or need clarification, consult with Brown’s Office of the General Counsel by reaching out to [email protected].