President Bollinger released a statement on the Supreme Court’s decision to examine a challenge to affirmative action cases.

In an official statement released today, Columbia President Lee Bollinger reaffirmed his support for the use of affirmative action in admissions policies in light of the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision to re-examine affirmative action at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. Bollinger called for a “recommitment to affirmative action” and emphasized the benefits of racial diversity at universities. The full statement can be found below. 

The court cases will explore the constitutionality of considering race as a criterion when potentially admitting students to a university. Race is of many factors considered in an admission decision as a way to encourage diversity in the incoming student body and increase admissions chances for historically disadvantaged students of color. 

President Bollinger stated today that it would be “calamitous for universities” if the Supreme Court were to “renounce the relationship between educational access and racial justice.” Bollinger has a long history with affirmative action in university admissions; in 2003, when Bollinger was the then president of the University of Michigan, the Supreme Court upheld the University of Michigan Law School’s decision to consider race in their admissions process in Grutter v. Bollinger. Moreover, in 2016, President Bollinger specifically advocated for affirmative action in university admissions in a response to the Fisher v. University of Texas affirmative action SCOTUS ruling. Bollinger has also written an essay and opinion piece for The New York Times on affirmative action. 

Bollinger’s statement comes in conjunction with Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow’s statement defending the University’s admission policies. The Supreme Court will hear these challenges in a session that begins in October of this year, with a decision possibly made by June 2023.  

Statement from President Lee Bollinger on January 24, 2022: 

What the the [sic] Supreme Court’s decision to hear challenges to affirmative action at Harvard and the University of North Carolina means for higher education.

January 24, 2022

With the Supreme Court’s decision today to once again examine the constitutionality of considering race among multiple factors contributing to admissions decisions, we must be mindful of what has always been at stake in these cases. What benefits accrue to university and college education, and to American society, as a result of racially diverse student bodies? And what is the cost to the vibrancy of our campuses and to higher education if that diversity is diminished or lost?

It would be calamitous for universities and for the ideals embodied in the Constitution, if the Court were to repudiate the moral imperatives of our nation’s history and renounce the relationship between educational access and racial justice prevailing since Brown v. Board of Education changed the country more than six decades ago. Broad public awareness of the unrelenting impact of racism demands a recommitment to affirmative action, not its abandonment.

—Lee C. Bollinger

Supreme Court of the United States via Bwog Archives