On June 29, 2023, the Supreme Court ended the use of affirmative action in college admissions.
In the historic ruling, the court considered two cases involving colleges’ use of race as a factor in choosing a diverse student body: In one case, Harvard was accused of discriminating against Asian Americans. In the second, plaintiffs alleged the University of North Carolina gave unfair preference to Black, Native, and Hispanic students, putting white and Asian applicants at a disadvantage.
The universities defended their admissions practices. For decades, the court upheld this type of affirmative action, including in a 2016 ruling.
In a short documentary—part of a collaboration with WCNY and The Hechinger Report—Retro Report lays out the deeply personal nature of the affirmative action debate while looking back at an important test case in 2003, in which Justice Sandra Day O’Connor cast the crucial vote to uphold affirmative action policies despite her concerns about the unintended consequences that might flow from them.