A push for new strategies in diversity efforts after landmark Supreme Court ruling

September 20, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent verdict on affirmative action has ignited a flurry of conversations and debates on how higher institutions can ensure diversity. Responding to the court’s landmark decision in the cases of Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. vs. Harvard College and University of North Carolina, the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) has released recommendations suggesting that colleges and law schools rethink their current admissions strategies.

In its report, approved Wednesday by its Executive Committee, the NYSBA encouraged educational institutions to move beyond standardized tests and GPAs. Instead, they should emphasize on how prospective students align with an institution’s core goals and values. It further suggests the abolition of legacy admissions, which have been criticized for prioritizing athletes, donors, and alumni children, potentially at the expense of a more diverse student body.

The task force behind this report comprises a notable list of members, including  former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, ex-U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Brad Karp of Paul, Weiss. Justice Cheryl Chambers and Justice Lillian Wan, respected figures from the Appellate Division, Second Department, are also among the esteemed members.

“While race-conscious policies were found to be unconstitutional, institutions of higher education still have wide latitude to look at the impact of race on an individual applicant as long as race in and of itself isn’t the reason for admissions,” said Richard Lewis, the President of NYSBA.

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The report also sheds light on the role of corporations and law firms in this discussion. DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) initiatives, despite facing various challenges, are still considered lawful if they align with federal anti-discrimination statutes. Brad Karp emphasized the importance of supporting DEI, stating that organizations ignoring diversity will “lose the talent war, suffer financial consequences, and fall behind their competitors.”

In the realm of judiciary, the report urges the system to encourage diverse candidates to apply, necessitating bias training for staff and judges and collaborating with bar associations. 

Recommendations also include crafting job postings that resonate with a broader audience and showcase inclusivity.


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