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Bailey warns Missouri universities, local leaders to end affirmative action policies

Brian Munoz
St Louis Public Radio
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey sent a warning to colleges and local leaders on Thursday.

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey issued a warning to universities and municipalities across the state to immediately end race-based affirmative action policies.

His order Thursday came after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that colleges and universities can’t consider race as one of many factors in deciding which of the qualified applicants is to be admitted.

Bailey directed his letter to the University of Missouri System, Missouri State University — and St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and Columbia Mayor Barbara Buffaloe.

The letter states that: “In recent years, the Supreme Court has created confusion by acknowledging that racial classifications are presumptively unconstitutional while simultaneously upholding so-called ‘affirmative action’ college admission programs that systemically disfavor applicants because of race. Today’s Supreme Court decisions against Harvard and the University of North Carolina resolve this previous contradiction.”

In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling, Washington University Chancellor Andrew D. Martin sent a letter to students stating, “While we must respect and abide by this decision, it’s important for you to know one thing: Our commitment to cultivating, welcoming, and supporting a diverse student body that includes individuals from a broad range of backgrounds and perspectives has not changed and will not change.”

The chancellor added that the university will review the court’s decision to figure out how to adjust admissions process in accordance with the ruling.

The University of Missouri system, however, already has taken action following the ruling, stating: “As allowed by prior law, a small number of our programs and scholarships have used race/ethnicity as a factor for admissions and scholarships. Those practices will be discontinued, and we will abide by the new Supreme Court ruling concerning legal standards that applies to race-based admissions and race-based scholarships.”

The universities will still honor financial aid commitments already awarded to returning and incoming students.

In Illinois, the Southern Illinois University System issued a statement that noted: “While the SIU System does not use race as a factor in undergraduate admissions decisions, our campus leaders are deeply concerned about the court’s decision.

“Today’s ruling coupled with similar decisions in several states across the country, may embolden critics of diversity and reverse generations of progress at colleges, universities and the nation.”

Affirmative action policies became prominent after the Civil Rights era as more institutions attempted to equalize access for racial minorities and women. The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the decadeslong policies could also potentially affect institutions beyond higher education, including primary and secondary education, as well as employment opportunities.

Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.