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Statement on the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Race In College Admissions

June 29, 2023

To: The Caltech Community
From: Thomas F. Rosenbaum,
Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair and Professor of Physics
Date:June 29, 2023
Re:U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Race in College Admissions

The power of Caltech comes from its people: exceptionally bright and creative students, faculty, and staff, hailing from every state in this country and from nations around the world, from small towns and big cities, from poverty and privilege, identifying as female, male, and nonbinary, embodying a spectrum of races and ethnicities. This diversity is key to Caltech's success.  The different perspectives, informed by different life experiences, generate new ideas in the classroom and in the laboratory. The open exchange of ideas in an inclusive atmosphere, the willingness to learn from people with different world views, shapes our community, develops informed and contributing citizens, and leads to scientific insights and impact.   

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the race-conscious admissions practices of Harvard and the University of North Carolina are unconstitutional. The court's decision overturns decades of precedent, which held that universities may consider race, among many other factors, in admissions processes. However, the Court also states that within the context of reviewing an individual's experiences, "nothing in [the decision] should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant's discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it, through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise."

With this ruling, the landscape in which we operate as a community of scholars and in which we have sought to fulfill our academic mission and values has shifted. At the same time, Caltech's commitment to cultivating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive academic community remains central to our mission of expanding human knowledge for the benefit of society. We cannot realize our full potential as individuals or as an Institute without this commitment.

We always will abide with the law of the land. Consonant with legal guidelines, and as we evaluate the scope of this ruling, we will continue to broaden access to and expand educational opportunities within Caltech for talented scientists, engineers, and scholars from all backgrounds. Over the last year, we doubled our investment in undergraduate admissions, expanding staff, support structures, and outreach activities that will increase global awareness of Caltech as a destination for all students pursuing STEM. At the same time, we have increased significantly our investment in student financial aid, reinforcing our commitment to admit the most talented individuals irrespective of their ability to pay.

We remain committed to pedagogical and research practices that engage, motivate, and support students from all backgrounds. We will continue to provide opportunities for students to explore the intersection of science and technology with our local communities and with society at large. We will sharpen our focus on effective and inclusive mentoring and advising, and we will continue to explore the differential impacts of teaching and assessment practices on the learning and confidence of our students.

Individuals from all backgrounds must share equitably in the privileges of the academy to realize fully the potential of science and engineering to transform the world. Caltech's abiding commitment to excellence and impact demands of us the actions to put these values into practice.