Today's Ruling on Affirmative Action

Dear Members of the Holy Cross Community, 

Today the Supreme Court issued rulings on two affirmative action cases—Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina and Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard University. Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering the tenor of last fall’s hearing, these rulings have effectively struck down race-based admissions. 

Before delving into what this means for Holy Cross, I would like to acknowledge how this feels. As a college president and legal scholar, I am disappointed by this decision and concerned about the implications for higher education and our country. Affirmative action was an important tool, albeit one of many, that colleges and universities could use to expand opportunity for underrepresented students and build diverse learning communities. 

As the son of Black civil rights activists, I am disheartened. College admissions is not and has never been a contest among students or zero-sum game. All institutions of higher education—Catholic, secular, public, and private—are committed to missions of education, transformation, and social good. We learn and live together in community. Yet these institutions must contend with the reality of our country’s recent unrest and history of racial and social oppression. This history was specifically designed to deny opportunity to so many for so long.  As I asked earlier this summer, when will we realize our nation’s promise of equal opportunity? 

At Holy Cross, our Jesuit values call on us to create and sustain a diverse and inclusive community marked by mutual respect, civility, and service to the wider world. Last August, we joined an amicus brief with 56 Catholic colleges and universities to urge the Court to uphold affirmative action. We spoke with one voice when we argued that Catholic colleges and universities have an “imperative to create diverse and inclusive student communities” because we are “linked with an obligation to address the social realities of poverty, oppression and injustice in our world.” That obligation is embedded in the College’s mission and the work we do every day. 

What will today’s ruling mean for Holy Cross? Our work continues and our mission remains unchanged. As part of our strategic plan, Aspire, and with the leadership of Vice President for Enrollment Management Cornell LeSane, we will continue to recruit and welcome a diverse, talented student body. We will deepen successful partnerships with Questbridge, The Cristo Rey Network, and American Talent Initiative to recruit high-achieving students from diverse regions. We will strengthen our efforts to grow financial aid for low-income and Pell-eligible students with the support of our Holy Cross alumni and supporters. Notably, as a result of recent financial aid endowment fundraising, we were able to add $500,000 to financial aid this year. Critically, at this time, we will continue to speak up in ways that affirm who we are and what we believe when it comes to the importance of diversity, inclusion, and opportunity at Holy Cross and across our country.


Vincent D. Rougeau