This 12-minute video examines contemporary and historical Supreme Court cases dealing with affirmative action. For decades, the Supreme Court upheld the consideration of race in college admissions. But in 2023, the Supreme Court rejected the consideration of race as a factor in college admissions. The Court sided with challenges to admissions practices at Harvard, which was accused of discriminating against Asian Americans, and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where plaintiffs argued that unfair preference was given to Black, Native American and Hispanic students, putting white and Asian applicants at a disadvantage. Both universities defended their admissions practices, citing past Supreme Court rulings that support the use of race as a factor.
Why the Supreme Court Endorsed, Then Limited Affirmative Action
Ruling in a case that challenged practices that colleges use to select a diverse student body, the Supreme Court reverses itself.
The Supreme Court has rejected the consideration of race as a factor in colleges’ efforts to create a diverse student body. For decades, the court upheld race-based affirmative action in college admissions, most recently in a ruling in 2016. But in June, the court sided with challenges to admissions practices at Harvard, which was accused of discriminating against Asian Americans, and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where plaintiffs argued that unfair preference was given to to Black, Native American and Hispanic students, putting white and Asian applicants at a disadvantage. Both universities defended their policies, citing past Supreme Court rulings in support of the use of race as a factor.
In this video, Retro Report looks at an important test case in 2003, when Justice Sandra Day O’Connor cast the crucial vote to uphold race-based admissions policies, despite her concerns about unintended consequences.
Educators, check out this video’s accompanying lesson plan and see our Supreme Court collection.
Browse through dozens more lesson plans and videos here.
- Producer: Kit R. Roane
- Editor: Anne Checler
- Update Editor: Heru Muharrar
Students will examine contemporary and historical Supreme Court cases dealing with affirmative action.
- Examine contemporary and historical Supreme Court cases dealing with affirmative action.
- Analyze and classify arguments in support of and opposition to affirmative action programs.
- Identify the purpose and effectiveness of amicus curiae briefs.
- Analyze a Supreme Court opinion to determine the main idea and supporting details.
- How has the Supreme Court viewed affirmative action policies in higher education?
- What are the central arguments in support of and opposition to affirmative action policies?
- What are amicus curiae briefs, and why are they important to the process of deciding cases?
- Transcript for “Why the Supreme Court Endorsed, Then Limited Affirmative Action” (Retro Report)
- Article: How to Read a Legal Opinion (The Green Bag: An Entertaining Journal of Law)
- Case Excerpt: Grutter v. Bollinger (Retro Report)
- Why and When to File an Amicus Brief (Smith, Gambrell & Russell)
- Excerpt of the ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) (The Supreme Court)
- Common Core State Standards
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.1:Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.2:Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.8:Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claims.
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.1:Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
- National Council for the Social Studies C3 Framework
- D1.5.9-12.Determine the kinds of sources that will be helpful in answering compelling and supporting questions, taking into consideration multiple points of view represented in the sources, the types of sources available, and the potential uses of the sources.
- D2.Civ.1.9-12.Distinguish the powers and responsibilities of local, state, tribal, national, and international civic and political institutions.
- D2.Civ.3.9-12.Analyze the impact of constitutions, laws, treaties, and interna-tional agreements on the maintenance of national and international order.
- D2.Civ.4.9-12.Explain how the U.S. Constitution establishes a system of government that has powers, responsibilities, and limits that have changed over time and that are still contested.
- D2.Civ.5.9-12.Evaluate citizens’ and institutions’ effectiveness in addressing social and political problems at the local, state, tribal, national, and/or international level.
- D2.Civ.8.9-12.Evaluate social and political systems in different contexts, times, and places, that promote civic virtues and enact democratic principles.
- D2.Civ.10.9-12.Analyze the impact and the appropriate roles of personal interests and perspectives on the application of civic virtues, democratic principles, constitutional rights, and human rights.
- D2.Civ.12.9-12.Analyze how people use and challenge local, state, national, and international laws to address a variety of public issues.
- D2.Civ.13.9-12.Evaluate public policies in terms of intended and unintended outcomes, and related consequences.
- AP Government and Politics
- Unit 3: Civil Liberties & Rights