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SCOTUS struck down affirmative action. Where do UNC students go from here?

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Kevin Guskiewicz, UNC Chancellor, speaks during a press conference outside of the Supreme Court of the United States after the conclusion of oral arguments in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. vs. the University of North Carolina on Monday, Oct. 31, 2022.

In the wake of the June 29 U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning affirmative action – the consideration of race in college admissions – some groups at UNC are gearing up for change.

The Chancellor’s Office recently announced a plan to cover tuition and associated fees for students with household earnings under $80,000 a year, starting with the 2024 incoming class. This effort will financially support an additional 150 to 200 students.

Additionally, the chancellor plans to plant outreach officers across the state in areas handpicked according to data from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction and existing partnerships with the Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program.

“These accessibility efforts are designed to encourage an applicant pool that leaves no one out if their dream is to come to Carolina and ensures they can afford it if they earn admission to Carolina,” Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said in a July 19 statement to the Board of Governors.

President of UNC Young Democrats and rising senior TJ White supports Guskiewicz’s plan. He said it “addresses socioeconomic diversity, which is a huge underlying factor of racial diversity."

White said he hopes other universities across the state and country notice the chancellor’s efforts and take similar action.

Rising junior and Affirmative Action Coalition outreach chair Joy Jiang echoed White’s sentiment. She said that, in her personal opinion, the chancellor is doing everything he can in light of what she perceives as pushback from the Board of Governors and Board of Trustees.

White said he acknowledges that the only method to reverse the recent affirmative action decision is to get more liberal justices appointed to the Court.

“But what we can do in the meantime is advocate for other measures to increase socioeconomic diversity, geographical diversity and diversity of thought in universities,” he said.

For the UNC Young Democrats, this advocacy for diversity can occur via education policy changes, such as raising the minimum wage and supporting paid family leave, White said.

The Affirmative Action Coalition also aims to promote diversity as well as unite students on UNC’s campus.

“If we create events, we want students to feel like it's a safe place to be, speak their minds, what they want to demand,” Jiang said. “We want to bring these issues to administration, be like a path or some kind of communicative organization for students to faculty, or for students to outside organizations.”

She said the Affirmative Action Coalition wants to recreate its “Diversity at Carolina” event from this past spring with the goal of allowing students to connect with each other and voice their demands. They said they hope this event will include students from Duke University, N.C. State University and UNC Charlotte.

UNC Young Democrats issued a joint statement with the Affirmative Action Coalition following the Court’s decision and plans to continue collaborating with the group in the future.

“The inclusion of diverse racial and ethnic identities in institutions, in education — they help the experience of all students as we move forward in a multi-ethnic, multiracial democracy,” White said. “It's important to have these different backgrounds and ideas in similar spaces.”

But not all groups see the Court’s decision as a step backward. Students for Fair Admissions issued a press release following the decision that said it "marks the beginning of the restoration of the colorblind legal covenant that binds together our multi-racial, multi-ethnic nation."

The press release labeled affirmative action as polarizing, stigmatizing and unfair and said the practice undermined the integrity of civil rights laws. It deemed the admissions practice of favoring children of alumni and donors a much larger threat to the preservation of diversity.

@adelepmorris17

university@dailytarheel.com

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