Today’s Supreme Court Ruling and our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

June 29, 2023

Dear Members of the Georgetown University Community:

I write to you following today’s decision by the Supreme Court of the United States on the use of affirmative action in higher education admissions. Last October, the Court heard arguments for two cases: Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina. The Court ruled today that the race-conscious admissions practices of Harvard and UNC were unlawful. 

While we are deeply disappointed in today’s decision and will continue to comply with the law, we remain committed to our efforts to recruit, enroll, and support students from all backgrounds to ensure an enriching educational experience that can best be achieved by engaging with a diverse group of peers.
Institutions of higher education in the United States have long held that their missions have been strengthened by a diverse community of students. Colleges and universities have consistently found that a student community that reflects the diversity of the nation provides the best learning environment for preparing young people for their place in the world. For Georgetown, when we walk through campus and see the banners capturing the Spirit of Georgetown, one characteristic element is the commitment to “Community in Diversity.”
And for nearly half a century, the Supreme Court consistently ruled that race-conscious admissions practices were available to further that goal. There are other arguments that can be made in support of affirmative action, but, significantly, those arguments have not been supported by the Supreme Court. For example, the argument that affirmative action might serve as a measure to redress past injuries created by nearly two and a half centuries of enslavement of people of African descent, and almost a century of subsequent segregation, was not validated by the Court. In Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978),the Court explicitly determined that past societal injustice is not a justification for present-day affirmative action. According to the Court, then, the only defense for the use of affirmative action by schools is to obtain the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body.
Today’s decision is particularly concerning as a recent report from Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce has found that enrollment of historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups at selective colleges and universities would likely stall or decrease if the Supreme Court bans the consideration of race in admissions—even if other factors, such as socioeconomic background, were weighted more heavily.
This latest decision by the Court does not change what we know to be true: diversity matters in fulfilling our obligations in preparing future citizens—future stakeholders in our democracy. We continue to be committed to taking steps to build a better future—ensuring that the full range of voices, histories, and experiences are included in our academic community as we work to fulfill our mission.
Of course, we honor the rule of law. And we will strive to ensure we provide our young people with the conditions that enable them to do their very best work as members of our University community.
Affirmative action was built on hope—the hope that we could be better in the future than we’ve been in the past. Georgetown embraced this hope. Now, we will need to find new ways of restoring this hope.
Racism remains the fault-line of our Republic. The persistent inequities in our nation—disparities in health, education, and income—are indisputable legacies of our nation’s history. While the Supreme Court has in the past ruled that the practice of affirmative action was not available as a means for universities to broadly address these societal legacies, this does not relieve us of the moral and spiritual responsibilities that we, as citizens, have for engaging our histories and the present realities confronting our nation.
In the time ahead, we will convene academic and admissions leaders from across the University to facilitate our collective efforts to assess the impacts of today’s decision on current programs and determine our next steps in fostering an inclusive campus community. In the meantime, I invite you to visit our website that describes our University’s past work and unwavering commitment to cultivating a diverse and inclusive community.


John J. DeGioia