Gabriela, her mom, and sister, Leticia, at her UCI graduation (1993).

Affirmative Action on Campus is Over – What’s Next?

Guest Post – Gabriela Robles, Chief Executive 

The Supreme Court’s recent decision on affirmative action in college admission came as a surprise to me. I spent several days reading articles and my peers’ responses. To some of you, it was expected. And others were shocked, like me. However, the overwhelming emotion was disappointment. For many of us, affirmative action opened doors to education pathways that otherwise would have been locked.


The historic ruling could create more significant equity gaps, and not just in education. SCOTUS’ decision shifts the focus from creating diverse campuses to creating chaos and opening the potential for lawsuits. None of these pivots benefit students. Not to mention pending cases, like the one already filed against Harvard, that will pull from already stretched-thin resources.


As I doom-scrolled, I kept asking, “What’s next?” Do we wave the white flag? My colleague, Jason Lacsamana, reminded me that we’ve been dealing with this for years in California. The 30-year fallout of Proposition 209 is well documented and gives us a glimpse of what we might expect across the broader educational landscape.


Jason and I agree that these decisions and the passing of propositions like 209 didn’t happen in a vacuum. They are the result of unequal representation. We still have the power to vote. So, we must vote intelligently and elevate voices and leaders with lived experiences who are committed to equity. We should support our grassroots community leaders and changemakers, laying the groundwork to ensure communities are lively, hopeful, healthy, and just.


What’s Actionable Now?

Having tough conversations about issues that change the equitable landscape of our communities is necessary. We must be mindful of with whom we socialize and where we invest our time (and money). The Obamas’ statements on the SCOTUS ruling included several organizations doing important work to ensure everyone has equitable access to higher education. Now it is more important than ever to invest in programs like the Fund’s Education Initiative to develop strategies and programs that shift policies to a more equitable state. It’s not a perfect answer to “what’s next?” but it’s actionable today.


The next election cycle is right around the corner. We can’t be colorblind – representation matters on every level, from city council and school boards to state and federal agencies. Furthermore, we can’t rely on our friends and family to vote in our best interests. We must have more conversations about the future of equity and work to make changes on every level.


Were you surprised about SCOTUS’s decision? If you aren’t already, connect with me on LinkedIn. I’d like to hear your thoughts about what’s next in your action plan for a more equitable future.