Students share concerns, Republicans applaud, after SCOTUS ruling on affirmative action

NOW: Students share concerns, Republicans applaud, after SCOTUS ruling on affirmative action

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to strike down the use of affirmative action in the college admissions process is the start of new efforts to address how race is considered among prospective students going forward, state leaders, officials and universities said Thursday, June 29.

The Court's decision is already making waves here at home with students and community groups who are concerned with how it could impact students in the future.

A Marquette student told us she doesn't know if affirmative action played a role in her getting accepted into the university, but she does know that if it had been stricken down a few years ago, she might not have even applied.

Now she worries about the message the court's decision will send to younger students.

Marquette Junior Bailey Rutherford said, "If I would have heard something like this right before I was applying to college, I might think 'wow, Marquette might not be somewhere that I would even think of,' because it just seemed so out of the realm of possibility."

If Rutherford had not applied, she wouldn't be pursuing a career in political science, and she wouldn't be the president of Marquette's Black Student Union.

And now she worries other students won't pursue those opportunities, either. "I don't want students to almost be deterred from even trying because they feel like they no longer have that chance."

Proponents of affirmative action -like Forward Latino's Darryl Morin- have long said it does not reward unqualified candidates, it merely brings parity and equity to a system that has traditionally been imbalanced.

Morin told us, "I don't know too many people that would say that all students have an equal opportunity to succeed these days."

Now he feels that imbalance will return. "There's going to be barriers, there's going to be hardships. But we cannot use that as an excuse to quit. Or as an excuse for failure."

He added, "We're going to do everything we can, once again, not to make sure they're given something, but that they have an equal opportunity to earn something."

Wisconsin's universities shared reaction in statements published Thursday.

"We are reviewing the decision to see what if any impact it may have on our universities," a spokesperson for the University of Wisconsin System said in a statement. "Like others across the country, we will assess next steps surrounding this issue and abide by the law."

Marquette University said in a release the institution prepared for the likely ruling from the Supreme Court by convening a "multi-disciplinary team" in late 2022 to plan for how the decision could impact various areas of the Catholic university's campus.

"Marquette will continue to do everything we legally can to recruit a diverse student body that reflects the world around us and enhances the transformational education we seek to provide," a statement from Marquette University President Dr. Michael Lovell and others read. "This is our commitment to our current and future students, to our faculty and staff, and to the greater Milwaukee community."

Marquette's full release on the topic can be found here.

During a news conference at the state Capitol, Republicans applauded the decision.

"I think it really bolsters the idea that race as the predominant factor in making decisions in America today is an outdated notion that should not continue," Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told reporters. "It shouldn't be for hiring, shouldn't be for promotion, shouldn't be for acceptance into the university."

On Twitter, Vos signaled the GOP-controlled Legislature may move forward with legislation that will look at other ways race is a factor in Wisconsin's higher education.

"We are reviewing the decision and will introduce legislation to correct the discriminatory laws on the books and pass repeals in the fall," Vos wrote on his personal account.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority, universities can still consider an applicant's discussion of how race affected their life, be it through discrimination, inspiration or otherwise.

In his remarks to the nation following the decision, President Joe Biden discussed ways universities can continue to work towards building diverse student bodies.

"What I propose for consideration is a new standard," Biden said. "Where colleges take into account the adversity a student has overcome when selecting among qualified applicants."

The conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty said the court's ruling is likely the start of new legal battles.

"I think that this is the start of a new round of litigation to see whether colleges and universities are actually hiding their discrimination in ways that they evaluate essays, for example," WILL Deputy Counsel Dan Lennington told CBS 58.

Congresswoman Gwen Moore said diversity is a strength for colleges and universities and the institutions will have to figure out ways to keep and build diverse student bodies.

"I think that universities are going to be a lot more creative in how they recruit and put a lot more elbow grease into doing it," Moore said in an interview.

Reaction from Milwaukee leaders

Milwaukee city and county leaders including Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson and Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley shared how affirmative action impacted them and their disappointment in the court's decision.

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