Understanding the U.S. Supreme Court Decision on Race-Conscious Admissions

Brown University is committed to complying with the June 29, 2023, U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down the consideration of race in admissions, while also sustaining the diversity that is central to Brown’s mission. 

President Christina H. Paxson affirmed this commitment in a letter to the Brown community following the court’s decision. The University maintains that advancing diversity among the student body is essential to achieving the highest standards of academic excellence and preparing students to grow and lead in a complex world. Diversity confers unmatched educational benefits, and Brown’s adherence to this principle remains unchanged. 

The Path Ahead at Brown

A group of senior administrators and faculty met for several months to develop lawful strategies for achieving racial and ethnic diversity at Brown. This included consulting with experts, gaining insights from publicly available information about peer institutions where race and ethnicity considerations are banned by state law, and reviewing the federal guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education after the court’s decision.

In the months immediately following the court’s decision, and prior to the start of the 2023-2024 Academic Year, the Office of the Provost and the Office of General Counsel provided resources and guidance to all academic and administrative units at Brown that have an admission application or entry criteria for their programs or activities. 

  • Brown will continue its “whole-person” review of applicants for admission. For admission to its degree programs, Brown has long practiced a holistic, or “whole person” review of each applicant in the admission process, and the majority opinion of the court constituted a strong endorsement for this individualized review, clarifying that nothing limited consideration of an individual's personal experiences related to race. The Office of General Counsel is supporting admissions officers and faculty in establishing operating procedures to ensure knowledge of the law and compliance across all stages of admissions.
  • Brown has refreshed its essay prompts to invite all applicants to reflect on where they come from and what unique contributions they may make to Brown. Those essays can be read on the How to Apply page of the Undergraduate Admission website.
  • The Court’s decision does not affect Brown’s pursuit of other indicators of diversity in admissions. The court’s decision is only applicable to consideration of race in college or university admission decisions and doesn’t affect other factors considered in admission decisions that relate to the diversity of the student body, such as gender, veteran status, geography, socioeconomic background or first- generation status.
  • Brown will pursue multiple avenues to pursue diversity via recruitment and yield strategies, which the Court’s decision allows. The court’s decision does not limit recruitment, yield or retention strategies geared toward creating diverse classes. The University will continue to recruit a pool of diverse applicants from all backgrounds and experiences through pathway programs, targeted outreach, and pipeline programs.
  • Brown will continue building its strength in recruiting partnerships and pipeline programs, which position the University well for sustaining and increasing diversity. Brown has experienced success in steadily increasing the proportion of students from historically underrepresented groups in the student body. Strong examples are partnerships with HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and community-based organizations from around the United States, as well as access programs such as a University pipeline initiative to build college readiness for students in the Providence public schools.
  • Brown will build on strategies to grow its reputation as a welcoming campus. Affinity centers (like the Undocumented, First-Generation, Low-Income Student Center), affinity groups, student organizations, mentoring programs, peer counseling and other programs will continue to provide inclusive programming that may be of particular interest to historically underrepresented students or women in underrepresented fields. These remain open to all students, regardless of race and gender.
  • Strategic planning to advance campuswide diversity continues. Efforts at Brown to implement Departmental Diversity and Inclusion Action Plans (DDIAPs) continue unabated, as we continue to build a diverse and inclusive environment to sustain and strengthen academic excellence in compliance with the law.

“ The bottom line — We know that Brown is strongest when people learn and work together in environments in which they are fully included, supported and respected for who they are. This will continue at Brown. ”

President Christina H. Paxson
More detailed information about the scope of the court’s ruling as it relates to diversity efforts is available on the FAQ page.