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Letter from President Hill on the Supreme Court Affirmative Action Ruling

Dear Members of the Campus Community,

As you may know, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision Monday in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case, considering the use of affirmative action criteria in higher education admissions. In its decision the Supreme Court ultimately returned the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Fifth Circuit, instructing the lower court to decide whether the university’s admissions policies involving race are narrowly enough tailored, using the legal standard of "strict scrutiny."

The Supreme Court decision reiterated that the educational benefits of a diverse student body are a compelling interest that can justify the use of race in the admission process. At the same time, it calls for the university to demonstrate, and the court to determine, “before turning to racial classifications, that available, workable race-neutral alternatives do not suffice.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling leaves the current law regarding the use of race in college admissions unchanged. It therefore has no impact on Vassar’s admissions policies, which include race as one of many factors in our holistic approach to evaluating applicants.

Given the importance of these issues to the college, we will follow this case carefully as it makes its way through the lower court, and we will monitor other cases that might emerge. It seems likely that the ruling will encourage additional challenges to affirmative action, rather than having clarified its standing for the coming years.

We believe that a diverse student body contributes vitally to our educational mission and that educating students from a wide range of backgrounds is crucial for our society. We are therefore relieved that the decision did not change existing law and that our current policies remain consistent with the law.

We expect challenges to affirmative action to continue. In the face of these challenges, Vassar remains wholly committed to diversity, inclusion, and equity.

Catharine Hill