Hawai'i State News

University of Hawaiʻi president calls Supreme Court’s ruling on affirmative action ‘beyond disappointing’

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University of Hawai’i President David Lassner. UH photo.

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in college admissions. This decision declares that race cannot be a factor and it forces institutions of higher learning to find new ways to create diverse student bodies.

The conservative majority of the court overturned cases that date back 45 years by ruling against the race-conscious admission plans at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina.

In a statement, University of Hawai’i President David Lassner called the decision “beyond disappointing.”

He said with the adoption of the new strategic plan by the University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents in November 2022, the university recommitted itself to diversity and equity as foundational principles.


“Notwithstanding the new ban on use of race in admissions decisions, UH stands firmly committed to provide higher education opportunities for all, especially those historically underrepresented in our student bodies, as well as to continue to diversify our faculty, staff, and leadership,” Lassner said. “The families and communities of Hawaiʻi need and deserve no less.”

He said UH takes great pride that its campuses are often ranked as the most diverse in the country, reflecting the population of Hawaiʻi.

“Our seven UH community colleges have an ‘open door’ admissions policy, and our three universities currently admit all qualified undergraduate applicants to the campus,” he said. “Our strong commitment to student diversity and equity focuses on encouraging and welcoming students from all backgrounds, especially those who have been underrepresented, into higher education and then supporting their success once enrolled.”

UH now will analyze the Supreme Court ruling to determine if any changes will be required to adhere to the ruling “while maintaining our commitments to diversity and equity to meet the educational and workforce needs of Hawaiʻi.”

Business students at Hawaiʻi Pacific University. (Photo courtesy: Hawaiʻi Pacific University)

Hawaiʻi Pacific University did not specifically address the Supreme Court ruling, but did send out a press release touting its diversity.

It said: “Colleges and universities across the U.S. have spent decades struggling to diversify their student populations through admissions processes focused on expansion of the institution’s racial diversity. Building on the existing cultural, racial and ethnic diversity of the Hawaiian Islands, Hawai’i Pacific University has attracted a student body that may be the most diverse in the country, creating a compelling learning environment that stands apart from virtually all other schools.

“With students hailing from all 50 states and over 60 countries. Students at HPU receive an unparalleled multicultural experience that creates a unique learning environment that equips them for success in a rapidly changing globalized world.”

Chaminade University President Dr. Lynn Babington also called the Supreme Court ruling “more than disappointing.”


She said in a statement: “The decision ignores the more-than-apparent effects of continued racism in our society. In doing so, this decision undermines the work that higher education has voluntarily taken on for many decades as a solution in a society that provides too few for this social evil. 

But Chaminade University, located in Honolulu, will not be affected much by the ruling because it does not consider race in its admissions decisions, Babington said.

“As a community-first university, our kuleana [responsibility] is to provide access to higher education for the people of Hawaiʻi and the Pacific Islands. The large majority of our students are from Hawaiʻi and represent the rich mosaic of Hawaiʻi’s citizens. In fact, Chaminade University is one of the most diverse universities in the country.”

Editor’s Note: This story was updated with comment from Chaminade University president Dr. Lynn Babington.

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