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ATHENS, Ohio—Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost advised state colleges to cease granting race-based scholarships. Ohio University, one of the state’s largest higher education institutions, has heeded the advice. With nearly 25,000 students, only 7% are Black. 

This decision comes after the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action last year. The ruling declared that affirmative action programs violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The college released a statement that gives insight into this decision. “[We] remain confident that attracting and retaining a student body from a wide variety of backgrounds, cultures, geographic regions, and ideologies is necessary to deliver an education that prepares students for lifelong success,” Ohio University stated. They continued, “Also, as a public institution, we must abide by state and federal laws.”

It goes on to say that because of the Supreme Court ruling against Harvard last June, they will review the criteria for admissions and scholarships. The changes will not affect grants that have already been awarded to current students. Donors of scholarship funds help create the criteria for eligible applicants. Ohio University will continue to work closely with those donors to ensure new guidelines follow the law. 

“This necessary work in no way changes our values as an institution, which include a commitment to fostering an inclusive University community where all students – regardless of race, background, gender, religion, or disability – are welcome and feel a sense of belonging,” the statement says in conclusion. 

Supreme Court Ruling

In June 2023, the conservative majority Supreme Court struck down affirmative action. This ended race-conscious college admission programs. Two rulings were issued simultaneously, one against Harvard and the other against the University of North Carolina. Both decided that their admissions programs violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. 

Since the ruling, many Republicans have started to attack diversity, equity, and inclusion programs. Last year, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed Executive Order 2023-3. This gubernatorial ruling requires all state agencies and higher education institutions to review their DEI programs and remove unnecessary personnel. Currently, lawmakers have introduced several bills to codify these anti-DEI measures into law.

Buzz around dismantling DEI programs began in places like Texas and Florida. As of Jan. 1, 2024, Texas prohibits DEI offices from operating in state colleges and universities. Similar to the case in Oklahoma, higher education institutions are not allowed to require participation in DEI training programs. 

The Florida State Board of Education established regulations to prevent public funds from being used for college DEI programs. Officially effective on Jan. 17, 2024, this impacts classes, clubs, and similar programs.   

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History of Affirmative Action

Affirmative Action started gaining traction during the Civil Rights Movement. 

One of the first instances of affirmative action orders came during the Kennedy Administration. In 1961, John. F Kennedy signed an Executive Order with a provision that government contractors take measures to ensure that applicants and employees are treated fairly without regard to race. 

Three years later, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, which prohibited employment discrimination in workplaces with more than 15 employees. It also aided in voting rights and promoted desegregation in schools. 

The next year, Lyndon B. Johnson signed an order prohibiting workplace discrimination based on race. Any employer that is under federal contract has to abide by these guidelines. It also promoted expanding job opportunities for minorities. 

Before the two rulings in June 2023 that ended affirmative action, there had been three previous attempts. In 1978, the first instance occurred when the University of California rejected Allen Bakke, a white applicant. He argued that his application was denied because of the set number of seats the college reserved for applicants of color. The Supreme Court ruled against him

Then, in 2003 there were two cases against the University of Michigan. The court ruled in favor of the university’s affirmative action policy, citing the importance of diversity. 

The most recent failed attempt was in 2013. A white student sued the University of Texas in Austin. Again, the Supreme Court sided with the institution.

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