Dear President Salovey, Dean Lewis, Dean Quinlan, and the University,
On June 29th, the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision to strike down affirmative action in college admissions and reversed years of progress towards equity in higher education.
We, as members of the Yale College Council, unequivocally condemn the Supreme Court’s decision to end affirmative action in college admissions.
Affirmative action attempts to correct a legacy of racial discrimination in the United States. Yale, like the U.S., was founded on Indigenous land and constructed by slave labor. The university’s namesake is slave-owner Elihu Yale, who made his fortune as a colonial administrator of British-ruled India. While we cannot excise the darker parts of our past, we can strive to right the wrongs of the present. Affirmative action is not a perfect system, but its discontinuity is a pivot away from progress.
In his majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts states that “students must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual – not on the basis of race.” Yet race is fundamental to the experiences of all students—especially those of color. Ultimately, this decision is only limiting the university’s ability to welcome students of the broadest range of backgrounds; it restricts the capacity to, as Roberts says, consider a holistic identity of students based on all of their experiences.
The classes of 2025 and 2026 are the most diverse in Yale’s history, each composed of over 50% of people of color. Race is but one element of the kind of diversity that enhances our universities, from classroom discussions to student life. In the past decades, affirmative action has brought us not only a more welcoming Yale for those historically excluded, but a more enriching Yale for each and every person on campus.
Along with President Salovey and Dean Lewis, we are committed to upholding diversity on our campus. President Salovey and Dean Lewis’ have noted that “Yale is committed to continue this journey [of increasing racial and socioeconomic diversity] and build on the progress we have achieved together.” In the previous visit that Dean Lewis made to YCC, he spoke of the Admissions Office’s work to prepare and adjust for the event that affirmative action would be declared unconstitutional. Workshopping and informing the student body, applicants, and alumni of these alternative and equitable admissions policies is critical.
We commend and share in these sentiments, but words must be accompanied by action.
First, we urge Yale to take this moment to reconsider the role of legacy status in admissions. We are struck by the irony of continued consideration of an arbitrary privilege in the face of new restrictions in ensuring diversity on college campuses. A system that has, by and large benefitted Yale’s most fortunate communities further augments the inequities that this ruling has exacerbated. In the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years, both iterations of the Yale College Council Senate voted and resoundingly approved statements condemning the role of legacy in admissions.
Second, Yale must promise to remain permanently test optional, and strongly consider a shift to test-blind admissions. Standardized testing largely benefits upper class, white applicants who have the time, money, and resources to devote to its preparation and further homogenizes the applicant pool.
Third, Yale administration must meet with student groups such as the Black Students Alliance at Yale (BSAY), Native and Indigenous Student Association at Yale (NISAY), Mecha de Yale, the Asian American Students Alliance (AASA), and the Middle East and North African Students Association (MENA). Moving forward, we must recognize the diversity that enriches this university has been the byproduct of decades of student organizing and activism. As President and Vice President of the Yale College Council, we promise to work with administration, the admissions office, and student groups who have long struggled for more just outcomes at this university to ensure equity and preserve racial diversity in admissions.
Fourth, as threats against student diversity loom larger, Yale must take proactive measures to ensure that students of color have places of belonging on its campus. It must increase funding to existing cultural centers and take actionable steps towards granting MENA students their own house. While recent expansions for resources and space inside of the Asian American Cultural Center are steps in the right direction, they fall short of fully meeting the needs of MENA-identifying students. To ensure that they are truly represented on campus and are given ample resources and funding, MENA-identifying students, now more than ever, need their own cultural center.
The Supreme Court’s decision is a step backwards. Nevertheless, we are committed to ensuring that the progress Yale has made under affirmative action will continue without it. As our country slides backwards, we will move forward.
Julian Suh-Toma and Maya Fonkeu
Yale College Council President and Vice President
Viktor Kagan, Chief of Staff
Ariane de Gennaro, Communications Director
Paola Flores Sanchez, New Haven Engagement Director
Youssef H. Ibrahim, Cultural and Religious Policy Director
Rosanna Gao, Business Director
Jad Bataha, Former Business and UOFC Director
Mimi Papathanasopoulos, Health and Accessibility Director
Emily Hettinger, Senator from Pierson College
Ben Crnovrsanin, Senator from Berkeley College
Surabhi Kumar, Senator from Ezra Stiles College
Carter Dewees, Senator from Saybrook College
Andrew Alam-Nist, Senator from Grace Hopper College
Christian Baca, Senator from Timothy Dwight College
Orah Massihesraelian, Senator from Jonathan Edwards College
Chet Hewitt, Senator from Pauli Murray College
Celene Bennett, Senator from Timothy Dwight College
Jordan Romano, Senator from Trumbull College
Adnan Bseisu, Senator from Pauli Murray College
Reece Kirkpatrick, Senator from Silliman College
Josh Siegel, Senator from Branford College
Elizabeth Schaefer, Senator from Morse College
Ciara Lonergan, Senator from Morse College