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Affirmative action ruling won’t change our values or our mission

While the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that effectively ends affirmative action in college admissions decisions was not surprising, it created much disappointment and concern for many who have been working hard to ensure that our colleges and universities were truly accessible to all, including those who have been historically underrepresented and marginalized. And while it is likely to have little impact on the UW’s admissions practices, given that I-200 already prohibited the use of race as a factor in hiring or admissions by Washington’s public universities, I fear that it is sending the wrong message to many of our nation’s youth at a time when we are experiencing post-pandemic drops in enrollment in higher education, especially among low income youth of color. That is why it is important to re-emphasize that as the University FOR Washington, nothing about the ruling will change our commitment to creating opportunity and expanding access to a world-class education for students from all backgrounds.

We remain wholeheartedly committed to our values and conviction that diversity, equity and belonging are intrinsic requirements for educational success and for the success of our society. We also remain committed to our Race & Equity Initiative, and all of the outstanding work happening across our campuses and our health care  enterprise to take shared responsibility for ensuring equity for all in our educational, vocational, and health care programs. For example, we will continue to conduct robust outreach and recruiting efforts to attract students, faculty and staff applicant pools that reflect the diversity of our state and nation.

As noted, because of the state law that has been in place for more than two decades, we do not expect the ruling to result in major changes to UW admissions policies or practices, although we will continue to monitor and analyze the impact of this and any future rulings. The Attorney General’s Office has reviewed the SFFA v. Harvard decision and we are confident that the UW is already in compliance; you can read more about it in this summary.

Nonetheless, we recognize that while this ruling is limited to college admissions, this is an opportune time to review other organizational practices related to hiring and DEI-focused programming. We are convening working groups to provide all our units with clear guidance on how to maintain compliance with current law related to admissions and hiring practices. Any updates to guidance for admissions and HR are expected in the fall. If you have specific questions about the legal summary or an urgent issue, please send a request for Attorney General advice through your unit leadership.

The Supreme Court decision does not in any way alter our values and mission, and I remain deeply grateful to everyone across the UW who is working for a more equitable future and a University – and world -in which everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic status is truly welcomed, supported and has the opportunity to thrive.