How does the Supreme Court’s ruling on affirmative action at the University of Michigan affect Trinity College?
TO: The Trinity College Community
FROM: President Patricia McGuire
As I hope you have heard by now, earlier this week, the Supreme Court issued historic rulings in cases challenging the University of Michigan’s policies and practices concerning affirmative action in admissions. While the rulings were mixed in part concerning specific practices at Michigan, the clear direction of the Court upheld the longstanding public policy of equal educational opportunity in higher education and the legal permissibility of well-crafted practices that promote equal opportunity and diversity as part of achieving justice in education.
Trinity College is clearly remarkably different from the University of Michigan, which is a large, coeducational flagship state institution. Given our institutional differences, some might ask whether the Michigan ruling makes any difference for Trinity. In fact, the ruling is very important for Trinity for several reasons.
First, the ruling reinforces Trinity’s historic commitment to equal educational opportunity, a fact first enshrined in Trinity’s mission through our founding in 1897 as a college for women who could not otherwise obtain an education in the nation’s capital. In the last two decades this commitment has sustained Trinity’s central commitment to women’s education and advancement while also guiding Trinity’s transformation into a comprehensive university now serving a majority of African American, Latina and Asian students, and students whose diversity is also remarkable by social class, nationality, language and culture. Trinity has received national recognition for our institutional commitment to the importance of diversity and opportunity in higher education.
Second, the ruling also is consistent with Trinity’s heritage through the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, who are now celebrating their Bicentennial as a religious order of women devoted to the worldwide education and advancement of women, children and the poor in response to the Gospel imperative to take action to achieve social justice for all. The SNDs founded Trinity at the end of the 19th century because they believed deeply in the right of women to obtain the same education as men at that time. The right to education is an essential part of the reverence for human life and dignity that is central to the Catholic faith. The SNDs continue to pursue this ministry not only at Trinity but in cities and nations around the world, including some of their largest contemporary ministries in Africa and South America.
Finally, the ruling also reminds all of us at Trinity that the quest for equal opportunity is not over, and even the Supreme Court recognizes this painful social fact. So long as the evils of racism, sexism and discrimination of all forms exist in our society, institutions will need extraordinary efforts to combat the effects of both historic and current prejudice. Proud as we are of Trinity’s track record on diversity education, we can always do more, and will keep searching for ways to live out our mission in justice and equity. The Supreme Court ruling gives us the occasion to reaffirm publicly Trinity’s commitment to the fundamental legal and moral idea of educational and economic justice in the teaching and learning that occurs each day on our campus.
Many thanks to all students, faculty and staff who work hard to ensure that our mission values become reality in our work together.