The Supreme Court ruled, on June 29, 2023, that under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, universities are obligated to treat all applicants fairly and not discriminate on the basis of race. Does this compel the executive branch to actually implement the ruling in practice? I.e. could the Biden administration declare that they’ll ignore all affirmative action related violations and not take away funding from any institutions that engage in such practices?

As a related example, marijuana is illegal in the US but this doesn’t mean that the government is forced to prosecute anyone for selling weed. Could a similar policy apply to colleges?


3 Answers 3


The judgment in Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President and Fellow of Harvard College, 600 U.S. ___ (2023) was in relation to relief sought by the plaintiffs against Harvard and University of North Carolina.

This is more apparent by reading the judgments below. See e.g. 397 F. Supp. 3d 126 (D. Mass. 2019). SFFA seeks "declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, attorneys' fees, and costs" against the defendant "President and Fellows of Harvard College (Harvard Corporation)." SFFA sought the same remedies against University of North Carolina: 567 F. Supp. 3d 580 (M.D.N.C. 2021).

Thus, there is no order against the federal executive. The federal executive can continue providing funding. It is Harvard and U.N.C. that are enjoined.

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    I would add to this that the larger implication of the ruling (the declaration that affirmative action is a violation title VI) is enforced in the same way - lawsuits can be brought against universities that practice affirmative action, and they will have a much stronger case than they did before this decision. Commented Jul 5, 2023 at 16:23

There is a private cause of action to enforce Title VI which is how the cases in question came up in the first place. It isn't enforced solely, or even primarily, by the executive branch.


Providing funding to colleges is unrelated to the colleges obeying non-discrimination laws (unless the law which provides that particular funding says otherwise which is a pretty good question, actually).

Absent such a provision, the administration is not obliged (nor permitted) to "hold funding over their heads" to motivate them to comply with the Supreme Court decision.

Even if the funding law had a provision that required non-discrimination to get the money, Congress could delete that provision. And if I recall, that can be done in reconciliation so they only need 51 votes not 60.


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