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The Affirmative Action Coalition at UNC-Chapel Hill hosts student leader forum ahead of SCOTUS decision

The Affirmative Action Coalition at UNC-Chapel Hill held a student leader forum on Wednesday, June 14, to discuss affirmative action advocacy efforts and awareness. 

The University is currently being sued by Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit organization looking to remove race-based criteria from college admissions. 

Although a decision is currently pending at the U.S. Supreme Court, members looked at issues and outreach coalitions regarding diversity on college campuses. Audience members also filled out a Google Form to draft a letter regarding affirmative action legislation. 

Here's what you missed: 

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  • The Affirmative Action Coalition at UNC invited Ivory Toldson, professor of counseling psychology at Howard University, to speak on his own experiences with racial equity in higher education. 
    • Toldson said institutions need to hire more diverse faculty members and target low-income and first-generation students through scholarships, mentoring and academic support services. 
    • Although Toldson attended Louisiana State University, he said he grew up in a generation where his parents could not legally attend the same university. 
    • “When people try to make it seem like discrimination is a historic event, we have a wealth gap right now that's a cumulative effect of racial discrimination that has happened to us legally,” Toldson said. 
    • Regardless of the upcoming Supreme Court decision, Toldson said people have to adhere to policies within the law that still achieve an equitable admissions process.
  • Liz King, senior director of the Education Equity Program at The Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, and Allison Scharfstein, fellow at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, discussed what the case means for American democracy. 
    • King said the power of student voices on affirmative action was encouraging. She said there has never been a civil and human rights movement in the United States that did not have students coming together to make demands of their institutions. 
    • “We are taking away from the future of the nation if we tell Black, Latino, underrepresented Asian American and Native American students that they don't belong and they don't have a seat at the table,” King said. “The tone here has got to be defiance.”
    • “No matter what the court decides, it's really important that we understand where these attacks are coming from so that we can fight back so that we can be defiant in our pursuit of multiracial democracy,” Scharfstein said. 
  • Three students each from UNC, the University of Texas at Austin and Harvard University discussed challenges with pushing institutions to value racial equality on campuses. 
    • Christina Huang, member of the UNC Affirmative Action Coalition, said students are the ones bringing safe spaces together, collecting funding and holding up a sense of belonging on campus.  
    • Huang said some individuals feared for their safety after the removal of the Silent Sam monument in 2019 and Mike Pence’s visit to the University in April. 
    • “People really wanted to talk about the social and racial climate at UNC,” Huang said. “I was sitting there and kind of listening to the conversation. It was difficult. Again and again, students expressed that they didn't feel physically, emotionally or mentally safe at UNC.”
  • Hillary Medina-Loveless, senior field manager at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Kashish Bastola, member of the Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Association explained plans for activism after the release of the SFFA v. UNC decision. 
    • Although the specific decision date for the case is not released until the day of, Medina-Loveless said messaging guidance, a social media toolkit and other resources following the decision will be released. 
    • “Everyone here, we could use your help amplifying our message, specifically hitting that defiant tone that we are looking for,” Medina-Loveless said. “We are here to fight for racial equity and diversity and higher education, no matter what happens.” 
    • Medina-Loveless said posters will be brought for a rally in Washington, D.C., on the decision date. She also said there will also be a digital space with social media activities occurring the same day. 

While the Supreme Court does not publicize beforehand when a verdict will be released, Medina-Loveless said the decision will most likely be announced this summer. 

@dailytarheel |

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