The Ongoing Debate on Affirmative Action in Higher Education: Pence’s Controversial Statement and Supreme Court’s Recent Rulings

On June 29, 2023, former Vice President Mike Pence made a statement during an interview with MSNBC’s Dasha Burns regarding the need for affirmative action in institutions of higher education.[0] Pence, who is known for being politically conservative and has been dubbed “the whitest person in politics,” argued that affirmative action is no longer necessary based on the experiences of his three white college graduate children.[0]

Pence stated, “There may have been a time 50 years ago when we needed to affirmatively take steps to correct long-term racial bias in institutions of higher education, but I can tell you, as the father of three college graduates, those days are long over.”[0] He reiterated this sentiment multiple times throughout the interview, emphasizing that his children did not experience racial discrimination during their college years.

This statement from Pence baffled many Twitter users who pointed out the flaws in his argument.[1] One user sarcastically remarked, “Ah yes, the Pence kids, the great litmus test of the effectiveness of affirmative action.”[2] The implication being that Pence’s children, who are white, would not have faced the same challenges and obstacles that minority students may encounter in higher education.

The timing of Pence’s statement coincided with two rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court that will limit the use of affirmative action in college and university admissions. These rulings prompted President Joe Biden to urge colleges and universities to maintain a commitment to diverse student bodies.[3] The Biden administration also announced plans to release a report on strategies for increasing diversity and educational opportunity and provide guidance to schools on what is and isn’t allowed.

One of the Supreme Court rulings involved practices at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, which the majority opinion deemed as not complying with the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection.[1] The court’s majority argued that these programs lacked sufficiently focused and measurable objectives and involved racial stereotyping.[4]

In response to these rulings, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor expressed concern about the potential decrease in minority admissions and the lack of onus on colleges and universities to prioritize diversity. She noted that colleges and universities can still consider other factors to increase diversity on campus.[5]

Meanwhile, in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis boasted about the state going “even further” than the Supreme Court’s ruling on affirmative action.[4] Florida has long prohibited affirmative action in college and university admissions, and DeSantis emphasized the state’s stance on “diversity, equity, and inclusion” by stating, “We have eliminated ‘DEI’ from our public universities.[4] They say it’s ‘diversity, equity, and inclusion.’[6] But the way it’s practiced, it’s ideology imposed on the institution.

0. “Mike Pence Cites His Own Kids’ College Experiences When Praising SCOTUS Gutting Affirmative Action” Mediaite, 29 Jun. 2023,

1. “Mike Pence’s Incredibly Dumb Reaction to the Supreme Court’s Affirmative Action Ruling” The New Republic, 28 Jun. 2023,

2. “Mike Pence Roasted For Extremely Weird Take On Affirmative Action” Yahoo Entertainment, 30 Jun. 2023,

3. “What the Supreme Court’s ruling on affirmative action does and does not do” CNN, 30 Jun. 2023,

4. “Gov. DeSantis brags that Florida goes ‘even further’ than Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action” Creative Loafing Tampa, 30 Jun. 2023,

5. “SCOTUS decision to end affirmative action will have ripples beyond higher ed – South Florida Business Journal” The Business Journals, 30 Jun. 2023,

6. “Gov. DeSantis says state goes “even further” after Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action” CBS Miami, 30 Jun. 2023,

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