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US Supreme Court decision a concern for all committed to inclusive global education

While it may not be a clear connection to some in our field, yesterday’s Supreme Court decision to essentially eliminate affirmative action – specifically race conscious admissions – should be of concern for all who are committed to advancing inclusive student success through equitable access to global education opportunities.

There are concerns the decision will lead to a smaller pool of faculty of colour who "are positioned to teach or lead education abroad programs or global learning opportunities". Photo: pexels

"For international students studying at selective universities, there will be fewer opportunities to connect with domestic students of colour"

In Diversity Abroad’s analysis earlier this month we highlight several areas of concern:

  • A significant number of the institutions that send the most students to study abroad are also on the list of the most selective colleges & universities, the very institutions that will be most impacted by the affirmative action decision
  • Based on past bans on affirmative action in California and Michigan, the number of Black and Latino students at selective campus will significantly drop, hence decreasing the population of available students from these backgrounds to study abroad
  • Fewer students of colour studying abroad has the potential to create a uniquely isolating experience for some of the students of colour who do go abroad as they will be more likely to be ‘the only one’ or one of a few
  • There may be challenges to use of race in awarding study abroad scholarships. In one study Diversity Abroad found that 90% of students of colour cited finances as the key barrier to study abroad participation
  • As campuses aim to diversify populations of international students, recruitment approaches that take race into consideration may run afoul of the new precedent set by the US Supreme Court
  • For international students studying at selective universities, there will be fewer opportunities to connect with domestic students of colour, thus limiting the very cross-cultural engagement and dialogue that enhance the educational experience for both international and domestic students
  • Specifically in study abroad, even prior to the decision, the percentage of students studying abroad from racial diverse backgrounds was stubbornly low. For African American students it has dropped. This decision will complicate work to diversify education abroad

At times colleagues in our field may not grasp why the continual need to discuss race, diversity equity and inclusion.

The identities of our students and colleagues, particularly those identities that have historically been marginalised, impacts lived experience. It’s important what we have more, not less, open and honest dialogue in the field about topics of race, diversity, equity and inclusion so that there is more understanding, empathy and progress.

The Supreme Court’s decision on affirmative action should be a call to action for those who are committed to the field of international education being a driver of inclusive student success. Now is the time to double down on efforts to expand equitable access to and support in global education for all students.

About the author: Andrew Gordon is founder and CEO of Diversity Abroad. Founded in 2006, Diversity Abroad’s mission is to create equitable access to the benefits of global education by empowering educators, engaging stakeholders, and connecting diverse students to resources and opportunity.

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