News & Ideas  -  Over 100 Former College Presidents Respond to Supreme Court Decision

Press Release

Today, the Supreme Court overturned decades of precedent that allowed colleges and universities to consider race as one of many factors in college admissions. This is a blow to our democracy.

The Charles F. Kettering Foundation has been preparing for such a decision for months. Earlier this year, the foundation and the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) brought together former college and university presidents in Washington, DC, to form a leadership group to support higher education and its role in American democracy. Also present at the February meeting were representatives of Public Agenda, PEN America, Campus Compact, and Sustained Dialogue Institute.

The group committed to work together to confront urgent challenges to democracy and higher education, such as efforts to undermine public support for higher education and recent and pending state legislation to discourage attention to racial inequality in the curriculum. The statement below is the first product of their work.

In anticipation of the Supreme Court’s decision on Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, the group prepared a written statement in the event that the decision found race-conscious admissions practices unconstitutional. The Court’s decision in that case has now been released and can be found here.

If you are a former university president and would like to endorse the statement, please respond to and include your name exactly as you would like it to appear and all institutions you have represented as president. Media inquiries should be directed to the same address.

Former College Presidents Speak Out for Diversity in Higher Education in Wake of Supreme Court Decision

The following is a joint statement from over 100 former college presidents who led institutions in 31 States.

We the undersigned are deeply concerned about the impact the US Supreme Court’s decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard will have on our democracy. We are speaking out now in support of our colleagues who are still working in higher education. Today in a split decision, the Court has forbidden colleges and universities from weighing race and ethnicity as one of a wide variety of factors in admissions.

The Court’s insistence that race be ignored strengthens the hand of the wealthy and the privileged in college admissions and undermines efforts to create richly diverse campuses that benefit all students. This will make college campuses significantly less diverse and higher education more segregated. It sends the message that addressing racial inequities is somehow improper. Nothing could be further from the truth; in fact, the decision exposes the actions of the Supreme Court as out of step with the nation it is designed to serve.

This short-sighted decision will have a corrosive impact on higher education and our democracy. America is a great experiment in the idea that a diverse people can live and thrive together across differences of race, ethnicity, religion, and class. Generation Z is more racially and ethnically diverse than any generation before them. Even as they are projected to become majority non-White by 2026, disparities in wealth and income for Black and Latino households continue to grow. A college degree is a gateway to the middle class. Closing the doors of higher education to more students of color will make that inequality worse, not better.

The Court’s decision will have ripple effects far beyond college campuses, stymying the efforts of businesses across the country to diversify their workforces and to serve a changing consumer landscape. The Court’s move clears the way for opponents of diversity to turn back the clock.

It is no accident that the Court’s decision comes at a time when bills attacking diversity in higher education have metastasized in state legislatures across the nation, all attempting to reverse our progress toward a more inclusive democracy.

The future of our democracy depends upon a shared appreciation of our differences. Despite the Court’s decision, we must redouble our efforts and explore alternative means of creating richly diverse college campuses that reflect the nation’s youth. Failure to do so will lead to further backsliding into a less equitable and just society and will entrench the system of inequality that has long plagued our country, perpetuating a cycle of disadvantage in which students from underrepresented groups are unable to access the same opportunities as their peers.

Stephen C. Ainlay, Union College

Teresa L. Amott, Knox College

Stan R. Arterberry, West Valley-Mission Community College District; Solano Community College District; West Hills Community College District

Steven C. Bahls, Augustana College

Esther L. Barazzone, Chatham University

Gretchen M. Bataille, University of North Texas

Priscilla J. Bell, Fulton-Montgomery Community College; Highline College; North Idaho College

Kim Benston, Haverford College

Robert Birnbaum, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh

George R. Boggs, Palomar College

Derek Bok, Harvard University

José Antonio Bowen, Goucher College

Wilson G. Bradshaw, Florida Gulf Coast University; Metropolitan State University

Daan Braveman, Nazareth University

Dean L. Bresciani, North Dakota State University

George Campbell, Jr., The Cooper Union

Mary Schmidt Campbell, Spelman College

Teri Cannon, Minerva University

Robert L. Carothers, University of Rhode Island; Southwest Minnesota State University; Minnesota State University System

Roger Casey, McDaniel College

John C. Cavanaugh, University of West Florida; Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education

F. Javier Cevallos, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania; Framingham State University

Ellen-Earle Chaffee, Valley City State University; Mayville State University

Donald P. Christian, State University of New York at New Paltz

Johnnetta Cole, Spelman College; Bennett College

Richard J. Cook, Allegheny College

Christopher C. Dahl, State University of New York at Geneseo

Rassoul Dastmozd, Saint Paul College

Lorna Duphiney Edmundson, Wilson College; Trinity College

Jeffery Scott Elwell, Eastern New Mexico University

Scott Evenbeck, Stella and Charles Guttman Community College

Mary L. Fifield, Bunker Hill Community College; Harrisburg Area Community College

William V. Flores, University of Houston-Downtown; Antioch University, Santa Barbara

William L. Fox, St. Lawrence University

A. Lee Fritschler, Dickinson College

Claire Gaudiani, Connecticut College

Rufus Glasper, Maricopa Community Colleges

Barry Glassner, Lewis and Clark College

Gena D. Glickman, Manchester Community College; Massasoit Community College

Karen Gross, Southern Vermont College

Richard Guarasci, Wagner College

Alan E. Guskin, University of Wisconsin-Parkside; Antioch University

Phoebe A. Haddon, Rutgers University-Camden

Thomas L. Hallman, University of South Carolina Aiken

Cynthia Jackson Hammond, Central State University

Dennis M. Hanno, Wheaton College

Elaine Tuttle Hansen, Bates College

Dianne F. Harrison, California State University, Northridge; California State University, Monterey Bay

Walter Harrison, University of Hartford

David F. Hartleb, Northern Essex Community College

Chet Haskell, Monterey Institute of International Studies; Cogswell Polytechnical College

Susan Henking, Shimer College; Salem Academy and College

Richard H. Hersh, Hobart and William Smith Colleges; Trinity College

Beverly Wade Hogan, Tougaloo College

Freeman Hrabowski, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

James Jacobs, Macomb Community College

Kristina M Johnson, The Ohio State University

Grace Sawyer Jones, Three Rivers Community College; College of Eastern Utah

Thomas R. Kepple Jr., Juniata College

Harvey Kesselman, Stockton University

William E. Kirwan, The University System of Maryland

A. Richard Kneedler, Franklin & Marshall College

Kathy A. Krendl, Otterbein University

Mark La Branche, Louisburg College; Martin Methodist College; University of Tennessee Southern

Steven D. Lavine, California Institute of the Arts

Carol Leary, Bay Path University

Arthur Levine, Teachers College, Columbia University

David L. Levinson, Norwalk Community College

Willard Lewallen, Hartnell College

Elaine Maimon, Governors State University; University of Alaska Anchorage

David Maxwell, Whitman College; Drake University

Mary Patterson McPherson, Bryn Mawr College

Gail O. Mellow, LaGuardia Community College; The City University of New York; Gloucester County College

Michael A. Middleton, University of Missouri System; Lincoln University (interim)

James Moeser, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Charles R. Mojock, Lake-Sumter State College

Richard L. Morrill, Salem College; Centre College; University of Richmond

Brian Murphy, De Anza College

Kathleen M. Murray, Whitman College

William V. Muse, University of Akron; Auburn University; East Carolina University

Felice Nudelman, Antioch University

Eduardo M. Ochoa, California State University, Monterey Bay

Shari L. Olson, South Mountain Community College

Eduardo J. Padrón, Miami Dade College

Mary A. Papazian, Southern Connecticut State University; San Jose State University

Patti McGill Peterson, Wells College; St. Lawrence University

Judith Ramaley, Portland State University; University of Vermont; Winona State University

Edward J. Ray, Oregon State University

Kevin P. Reilly, University of Wisconsin System; University of Wisconsin Extension

Brian Rosenberg, Macalester College

Lisa A. Rossbacher, Southern Polytechnic State University; Humboldt State University

Herman J. Saatkamp, Jr., Stockton University

Alvin J. Schexnider, Winston-Salem State University

Mark Schulman, Antioch University, Southern California; Goddard College; Saybrook University; Presidio Graduate School

John F. Schwaller, State University of New York-Potsdam

Robert A. Scott, Adelphi University; Ramapo College of New Jersey

Judith Shapiro, Barnard College

Peter Smith, Community College of Vermont; California State University, Monterey Bay

Rosanne Somerson, Rhode Island School of Design

Julianne Still Thrift, Salem College

Barbara Vacarr, Goddard College

Robert Weisbuch, Drew University

A. Dale Whittaker, University of Central Florida

Wim Wiewel, Portland State University; Lewis and Clark College

Gregory H. Williams, The City College of New York, City University of New York; University of Cincinnati

R. Owen Williams, Transylvania University

Jamie C. Williamson, Winthrop University

John Silvanus Wilson, Jr., Morehouse College

Eileen B. Wilson-Oyelaran, Kalamazoo College

Terri L. Winfree, Prairie State College

Les Wong, San Francisco State University


Related Statements from Other Organizations

AAU President Statement on Value of Diverse Campus Communities

AAC&U Statement on Supreme Court’s Decision

Campus Compact Addressing Supreme Court’s Ruling

Philanthropic Joint Statement in Response to Supreme Court Decision

Demographic Change and Multiracial Democracy

Pew Research Center, What We Know About Generation Z So Far, May 14, 2020.

Urban League, State of Black America 2023, Democracy in Peril: Confronting the Threat from Within.

Dowell Myers, Census 2020, Racial Demographic Trends, and Narratives of Interpretation, Kettering Foundation, 2023.

Racial Disparities in Education and Wealth

Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education and the University of Pennsylvania Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (PennAHEAD), Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States: 2022 Historical Trends Report.

Othering and Belonging Institute Racial Disparities Dashboard

Pew Research Center, Six Facts About Economic Inequality, February 7, 2020.

Race-Conscious Admissions

American Association of Colleges & Universities amicus brief

Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, Race, Elite College Admissions, and the Courts

Harvard respondent brief

Amicus brief by group of major American businesses

University of California amicus brief

University of Michigan amicus brief

UCLA Civil Right Project policy brief

Alternatives to Race-Conscious Admissions

Sheryll Cashin, “Place Not Race: Reforming Affirmative Action to Redress Neighborhood Inequality,” Furman Center, July, 2014.

Halley Potter, “What Can We Learn from States That Ban Affirmative Action?” The Century Foundation, June 26, 2014.

Richard Guarasci, Neighborhood Democracy: Building Anchor Partnerships between Colleges and Their Universities (Stylus, 2022).

Anti-Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Legislation

Chronicle of Higher Education Tracker

NASPA Anti-DEI Legislation Resources

NADOHE in the News: Fighting For DEI Efforts

Legislation to Restrict Academic Discussion of Racial Inequality

Jeremy Young and Jonathan Friedman, America’s Censored Classrooms, PEN America, August 17, 2022.

UCLA School of Law, CRT Forward Tracker

Champions of Higher Education statement

Kevin P. Reilly op-ed

Campus Misinformation website

Campus Climate and Freedom of Speech

Knight Foundation, College Student Views on Free Expression and Campus Climate 2022

Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression Free Speech Rankings