CSWE Calls on Higher Education to Recommit to Racial Equity and Justice

Published on : July 19, 2023

CSWE Calls on Higher Education to Recommit to Racial Equity and Justice in Face of SCOTUS Decision

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) decries the recent Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruling invalidating consideration of race in higher education admissions processes. Evidence from research and practice wisdom are clear on the educational benefits of a diverse student body, and thereafter, better community outcomes. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning the rights of Harvard University and the University of North Carolina to consider race as a factor in admissions decisions perpetuates historic and current racial and social inequities. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson puts it best in her dissent when she notes:

“But deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life. And having so detached itself from this country’s actual past and present experiences, the Court has now been lured into interfering with the crucial work that UNC and other institutions of higher learning are doing to solve America’s real-world problems."
The practical implications of the Court’s flawed and defective decision will take some time to develop but it is already being leveraged to advance political agendas, including by some states claiming that targeted financial aid programs that utilize race are illegal. CSWE calls on its membership and programs to continue to “demonstrate anti-racist and anti-oppressive social work practice at the individual, family, group, organizational, community, research, and policy levels” as called for in the 2022 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards. To that end, CSWE will use its role in social work education and higher education to:
  • Encourage institutions of higher education to fully avail themselves of all means still available in advancing diverse campuses through considering an applicant’s discussion of how race has affected their life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise, as noted in the majority’s decision.
  • Call for the reevaluation of the use of legacy, donor, and faculty-based admissions by institutions.
  • Charge institutions and programs to redouble and effectuate policies that advance justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.
  • Articulate that a diverse social work profession is a “compelling interest” (similar to the importance of a diverse student body at military academies) given the social, economic, and health issues facing our communities, country, and society at large.
Equitable access to higher education was lacking prior to the Court’s decision. The decision, however, should catalyze the higher education community to commit to real change in fostering equity in higher education. CSWE is committed to this effort and looks forward to working with its membership to continue to dismantle systemic barriers to equality and equity, particularly in social work education and across higher education.