DEI Is Not Dead

by Courtney Carter
NALP Bulletin+
September 2023

Useful Resources
For more information, watch the July 10 webinar where NALP hosted a fantastic panel of experts breaking down the Supreme Court’s opinion titled: Where Do We Go From Here? A Discussion Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Decisions in the ‘Affirmative Action’ Cases.

And visit NALPconnect to find other beneficial resources on the opinion.

On June 29, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in the Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina. At issue was can a college admissions office consider race as a "plus factor" as part of a holistic admissions process under the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination by private institutions receiving Federal financial assistance. In a 6-3 decision authored by Chief Justice Roberts, the Court held that race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard and UNC violate the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause.

As NALP members, we care deeply about DEI, and this article is meant to help you begin to think about what you and your organization should do now that the decision has been issued. Note, this is not legal advice, and you will want to work with your organization's legal counsel to consider how these suggestions will work best for your organization. Think of this as a starting point.

  1. Don't panic. DEI is not dead. Read that again. DEI is NOT dead. Your initiatives and efforts to create an inclusive and diverse environment do not need to end because of the Court's ruling. In fact, it is more important than ever to affirm your organization's commitment to DEI.

  2. Take inventory. Work with your organization's counsel to take stock of your programs and initiatives and ensure you are minimizing risk. Again, this is not about lessening your program but rather working to achieve your objectives while minimizing the risk your organization has legally.

  3. Get creative. As you take inventory and think about any updates you might want to make to your programming, be creative. Are there race neutral ways to still conduct your diversity scholarship program? Of course, there are — institute those ideas. You can broaden your eligibility criteria for your programs in a way that will help you reach your goals while lessening your legal risk.

  4. Remember, the work we do matters. Keep the faith. It can be incredibly frustrating to feel like you have to defend and protect concepts that are so embedded in us as NALP members. Acknowledge that feeling and take a break when you need it (self-care is critical) but rest in the knowledge that our good work matters. While this is stressful it is also an opportunity for us to affirm our values and how much DEI matters.

Courtney Carter is Director of Diversity & Inclusion at Jenner & Block LLP and also serves on NALP's Board of Directors as Vice-President for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

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