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Affirmative Action on Trial: What’s Next for Students in America?

Event Date:

July 20, 2023 | 12:00 PM EDT TO 1:00 PM EDT
The United States' Supreme Court Facade

On June 29, 2023, the Supreme Court ended the use of affirmative action in college admissions. In...


In a landmark ruling on June 29, 2023, the Supreme Court gutted affirmative action in college admissions, ruling that schools can no longer consider race as a specific factor when deciding who’s admitted. 

In the 2003 case Grutter v. Bollinger, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor cast the crucial vote to uphold admissions policies considering race, despite her concerns about unintended consequences. She requested that the Court revisit affirmative action policies in 2027. Can Race Be a Factor in College Admissions? SCOTUS Reconsiders Affirmative Action, a documentary by Retro Report, explains the ruling and its fallout. The documentary was produced in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center, The Hechinger Report, and WCNY/PBS.

Join the Pulitzer Center on July 20, 2023, and hear panelists prominent in the higher education space discuss solutions and adaptation strategies in the wake of SCOTUS’ 6-3 ruling in the case Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College and the companion case Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina.

The panel will be moderated by Liz Willen, a Pulitzer Center grantee and editor-in-chief of The Hechinger Report.

California was the first state to implement a sweeping ban on affirmative action and related outreach for state-funded schools and public sector jobs in 1996. American Bar Association data showed that the “total percentage of Black, Hispanic and Native American first-year students at Berkeley Law fell from 19% in 1996 to 6% in 1997,” according to a Reuters report

In 2006, Michigan also banned affirmative action in state-funded schools. The University of Michigan Law saw results similar to Berkeley Law, according to the same Reuters report.

Nikki Chun, vice provost for enrollment at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, warned, “If we’re restricted from asking questions about race and ethnicity [nationally], it’s going to be really difficult to be able to measure whether we’re meeting our mission as an institution.”

Will the court’s decision lead to reformulation of admission practices, toward more equitable standards? Will it warp and entrench inequalities in higher education and the workplace, putting justice farther out of reach? What does all of this mean for students in America?


  • Liz Willen has been editor-in-chief of the award-winning Hechinger Report since 2011. She is a sought-after moderator for education conferences and events. Willen, who has received numerous awards for her reporting, graduated from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and is a board member for the Spencer Education Fellowships at Columbia.
  • Marcela Rodrigues is a 2022 Pulitzer Center Post-Grad Reporting Fellow from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. She works as an education reporter for the Dallas Morning News, where she has written extensively about affirmative action and education equity. Rodrigues formerly worked at The Chronicle of Higher Education.
  • David Hinojosa served as lead counsel for multiracial students and alumni defending affirmative action in Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina and Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, where he argued the UNC case in the Supreme Court. In the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Hinojosa spearheads the organization's cutting-edge racial justice litigation, policy, and advocacy work in education in support of historically marginalized students of color.
  • Mitch Gelman is a Pulitzer Center grantee ands president and CEO of WCNY, a public media station in central New York. He helped produce Can Race Be a Factor in College Admissions? SCOTUS Reconsiders Affirmative Action in 2022.





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