On Thursday, Alabama Higher Education commissioner Jim Purcell told 1819 News that Alabama’s public colleges and universities did not make admission decisions based on race.

On Thursday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a landmark case that affirmative action in college admissions violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. Affirmative action policies and programs give preference to particular minority groups, such as black people and Latin Americans, over other ethnic groups, such as white and Asian people.

“None of Alabama’s state-sponsored colleges and universities currently make admission decisions based upon race,” Purcell told 1819 News when asked for a comment about how the ruling will affect Alabama. “There are several state initiatives that support minority enrollment in fields for which they are underrepresented, but the admission to the institution is not based upon race.” 

1819 News also reached out to the major higher education institutions in the state requesting a comment about the ruling.

A representative from the University of Alabama System, which oversees the University of Alabama (UA), University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) and University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH), said that the system was currently assessing the ruling but that it will “continue to comply with applicable laws and accreditation standards regarding admissions.”

University of North Alabama (UNA) spokeswoman Michelle Eubanks said that, though the university valued diversity, it did not consider race as a factor in admissions.

“The University of North Alabama values diversity, different perspectives, and the individual experiences of those who attend, engage, and participate at all levels of the institution,” Eubanks said. “However, the University does not consider a student’s race or ethnicity as a determinative factor in admission decisions.”

1819 News also contacted the University of South Alabama (USA) and Auburn University, and both declined to respond. 

After Thursday’s ruling, Alabama Center for Law and Liberty (ACLL) president Matt Clark suggested that though the ruling was over admissions, it may also put racial aspects of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs and policies in higher ed in jeopardy.

DEI programs have come under fire from conservatives in recent years. 

The Alabama Republican Party (ALGOP) passed a resolution in February supporting legal efforts to abolish DEI policies and bureaucracies and mandatory diversity training in public universities and other public institutions. 

According to the resolution, DEI policies — which proponents claim promote the representation and participation of different identity groups — do not fulfill their alleged purpose. Instead, they "have actually stifled intellectual diversity, prevented equal opportunity and discriminated against anyone who dissents from these policies."

Auburn, UA, UAB, UAH, USA, UNA, Jacksonville State University (JSU), Alabama State University (ASU) and the University of West Alabama (UWA) all have DEI departments or something similar.

In March, Purcell spoke negatively of the ALGOP resolution and defended DEI programs in taxpayer-funded universities, arguing that the programs prepared students for the real world and helped colleges create a “safe environment where persons are encouraged to explore new ideas, develop socially and are recognized by their talents above all else.”

UAB director of public relations Alicia Rohan told 1819 News earlier this month that the Association of American Medical Colleges’ (AAMC) accreditation standards require UAB’s medical school to implement diversity programming. 

Some DEI officials in the state make north of $250,000 annually, including Auburn’s associate provost and vice president for Inclusion and Diversity and chief diversity officer Taffye Benson Clayton, UA’s vice president and associate provost for the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Gwendolyn Christine Taylor and UAB’s vice president of Diversity Equity and Inclusion Paulette Patterson Dilworth. 

UAB’s associate vice president of Diversity, Equity and Equity and Inclusion Mona M. Fouad makes over $400,000 annually.

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email will.blakely@1819news.com or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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