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Members of the UNC community plan for a future without affirmative action

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The Affirmative Action Coalition hosted the Diversity at Carolina event on Saturday, April 15 in Carroll Hall. Photo courtesy of Joy Jiang.

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled universities could no longer use affirmative action — specifically in the consideration of race — in their admissions process.

The Affirmative Action Coalition at UNC had been preparing for the possibility that affirmative action would be overturned for months.

“We have been training for this, and we are kind of ready to keep fighting on and keep pushing to defend our civil liberties and rights,” Sarah Zhang, the internal affairs and media chair for the organization, said.

Despite their frustration at the decision, members of the coalition began responding and mobilizing soon after the decision was announced.

In Washington, D.C., Zhang met with national civil rights organizations and other students for an informal rally outside of the U.S. Supreme Court.

They said that the coalition’s work is still centered around preserving equity and inclusion on campus, even if it looks different following the recent decision.

Christopher Everett, the undergraduate student body president at UNC, has also been considering how his administration can continue to ensure students of color feel supported at the University without affirmative action.

He said his platform was already centered on creating space for different identities, experiences and beliefs at UNC, and that it is even more crucial now to make space for everyone to feel safe.

"Really the reason why I ran is just to make sure that I can build a better Carolina for everyone," he said.

Everett said he is hoping to do all he can to make sure students know they are safe at UNC, which includes highlighting the various cultures, identities and experiences on campus.

"So all I really can do is use my next year and use the time I have in this position to have these programming events and to really highlight multicultural identities and experiences on campus so that people do know that we do exist," he said. "We're still going to keep standing, keep fighting, and do all we can to make sure that the Court and everyone knows that our identities and our experiences are worth being valued just as much."

The Affirmative Action Coalition and partner organizations will work to continue to hold UNC accountable to other diversity, equity and inclusion practices, according to a statement released following the decision.

Their next steps include working with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and other civil rights groups, on and off campus, to consider alternative solutions, continue to educate students at the University on the importance of DEI and hold a summit in the fall to discuss the implications of the decision with students and leaders.

“I think we kind of have two things to focus on: one is making sure that students from low-income diverse communities are getting the support they need to help them excel at Carolina,” Zhang said. “Then secondly, is the admissions process expanding to recruit in historically resilient communities across North Carolina, especially because you want an in-state makeup that represents the population of the state, and that's partly not happening.”

In a message sent to members of the UNC community, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said leadership is reviewing the details of the decision — as well as its potential impact — and will be communicating about plans in the coming weeks.

"I know that this decision may raise questions about our future and how we fulfill our mission and live out our values. But Carolina is built for this, and we have been preparing for any outcome," Guskiewicz said in the statement.

@eliza_benbow

@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com

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The Daily Tar Heel has been covering the Students for Fair Admission v. UNC lawsuit since it was filed in November 2014.

We’ve covered the entire legal pathway — the original filing, a 2016 ruling in favor of affirmative action, the first hearings, the beginning of the trial, the lower court rulings, the U.S. Supreme Court taking on the case, the split of the Harvard University and UNC cases and the decision itself.

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The Daily Tar Heel sent three editors — Liv Reilly, Ira Wilder and Preston Fore — to the U.S. Supreme Court in October 2022 to cover the oral arguments in the case, and then covered student responses to those arguments.

We’ve covered how it might impact employment and the history of precedent-setting affirmative action cases.

We covered the foundation of UNC for Affirmative Action and the Affirmative Action Coalition, a group that organized events and forums leading up to the decision. When civil rights leaders came to Chapel Hill less than a month before the decision, we covered the event.

As updates arise in UNC’s response to the Supreme Court’s decision, we will be there, covering them.


Eliza Benbow

Eliza Benbow is the 2023-24 lifestyle editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as summer university editor. Eliza is a junior pursuing a double major in journalism and media and creative writing, with a minor in Hispanic studies.