Maryland college and university leaders Thursday expressed dismay at the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down affirmative action programs, but they pledged to continue working to make their campuses more racially diverse.
The Supreme Court issued decisions on two cases that challenged race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. By a 6-to-3 vote driven by the court’s conservative majority, justices ruled that that race-conscious affirmative action policies that benefited applicants from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds were unconstitutional and discriminated against white and Asian American college applicants.
Maryland public and private universities responded with statements Thursday afternoon that voiced disapproval of the ruling and emphasized the importance of diversity in college admission and ensuring a student body that represents all backgrounds.
Jay Perman, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, said Thursday that the system’s universities have been preparing for the ruling and the ways that it may impact admissions policies and practices. The decision will not inhibit their ability to serve all Maryland residents, with a renewed commitment to their mission of providing diverse learning environments, he said.
Given that Maryland is one of the nation’s most racially and ethnically diverse states, USM will continue to ensure its campuses and classrooms reflect the state’s population, Perman said. He said the system will continue to work to advance college access and affordability to all residents, providing them with support to complete their education.
White students currently comprise 41% of Maryland’s public four-year and state-aided independent undergraduate student bodies, while Black students represent 25% of the population, Asian American students 11%, and Hispanic students 10%. All told, 48% of Marylanders are white, 32% are Black, 7% are Asian, and 12% are Hispanic.
University of Maryland College Park President Darryll Pines expressed disappointment with the decision but expressed optimism for the university’s ability to attract and retain a diverse student body. Pines said that the university’s strong graduation and retention rates for Black and Hispanic students, which he said rank among the highest in the nation, will allow the school to continue to attract a diverse student body.
Pines said that the university will not sacrifice its values or relax its drive for campus diversity, despite the challenges the new ruling will bring to admission processes. The university will expand recruitment efforts in the hopes of increasing its applicant pool, which Pines believes will have an impact on the diversity of the student body.
Ronald Daniels, president of Johns Hopkins University, said that the court’s decision represents a setback in the university’s efforts to build a student body that reflects the diversity of America but that the university will explore ways to reduce barriers to entry for applicants within the boundaries of the court’s rulings.
Daniels also noted that the decision did not appear to impact programs for first-generation and low-income students.
The decision comes as Johns Hopkins has worked in recent years to recruit underrepresented students, with Black students rising from 6% to 16% of the university’s student body since 2010 and Hispanic students from 8% to 24%.
Anthony Jenkins, president of Coppin State University, a historically Black institution, said that the Court’s ruling may lead students of color and from underrepresented backgrounds to question their sense of belonging and for faculty and staff to rethink their role at universities.