Office of the President
June 29, 2023
Tags Community Messages

The Supreme Court’s ruling on affirmative action

From the President

Dear Members of the Brown Community,

Across more than 20 years, Brown University has joined no less than eight amicus briefs in support of the use of affirmative action in higher education admissions. Our values have remained constant. We believe that the student body diversity is essential to achieving our educational mission. We have consistently argued that the consideration of race as one of many factors in achieving a diverse student body enriches the educational experience for all.

In a 2018 brief, we made clear that engaging with others of varying backgrounds and perspectives compels students to test and question — question their assumptions, test what is put forth as universal “truth,” and build understanding about the value of difference in translating and navigating society. It’s under these conditions that learning and the advancement of knowledge thrive.

Given Brown’s long history of support for affirmative action in admissions, I am deeply disappointed in the Supreme Court ruling that was issued earlier today, which has upended decades of precedent. In the cases Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina that challenged the lawfulness of race-conscious admissions programs, the court ruled that the consideration of race among the factors in admitting students to universities is unlawful.

Today’s decision raises questions about how Brown and other institutions of higher education will continue to fulfill vitally important commitments to access and diversity. And we know and understand that some in our community may feel the impact of the court’s decisions in personal ways. Given the complexity and volume of the decision, it is too soon to say with certainty or specificity how the court’s decision might affect Brown. Like other colleges and universities, we have begun immediately conducting a thorough legal review of the 237-page opinions in the two cases. This will take time.

As we analyze the decisions, I want to underscore that Brown is and will remain firmly committed to advancing the diversity that is central to achieving the highest standards of academic excellence and preparing our students to grow and lead in a complex world.

The Path Ahead at Brown

The University is committed to complying with the law, while also sustaining the diversity that is central to Brown’s mission. To that end, a group of senior administrators and faculty has been meeting for several months to plan for possible changes in the law in anticipation of the court’s decision. We have also consulted with experts and peer institutions where race and ethnicity considerations are banned by state law to determine the success of lawful strategies in achieving racial and ethnic diversity.

Over the summer, we will conduct a close review of the SCOTUS decision to determine which of the various strategies for recruiting, admitting and yielding a talented, diverse student body we can follow. Once this review is complete, the Office of the Provost will provide resources and guidance to all academic and administrative units at Brown that have an admission application or entry criteria for their programs or activities. Units that need to make decisions about admissions strategies before this work is complete should contact the Office of the Provost.

The bottom line — We know that Brown is strongest when people learn and work together in environments in which they are fully included, supported and respected for who they are. This will continue at Brown.


Christina H. Paxson