Last week, the president of the University of Missouri resigned amid student protests that he had not done enough to address racist incidents on campus. At Yale University, hundreds of students are protesting the university administration’s failure to create a welcoming and safe environment for minority students. Similar protests are erupting across the country at institutions, such as Claremont McKenna College, Weslyan University, and Ithica College.
Students want answers, and one common solution that student protestors are asking for is to increase the diversity of their faculties by hiring more women and minority professors. In deciding whether to accede to these demands, the relevant university administrators will face a crucial test of their integrity and their commitment to the rule of law; specifically, their commitment to ensure that their institution does not violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
To understand why, you must ignore anything you have heard about the Supreme Court’s decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, which held that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment allows public universities to consider an applicant’s race in their admission decisions. That decision is irrelevant to the question of whether universities can consider race and gender in deciding whom to hire as faculty. Employment decisions are governed by the Civil Rights Act, which applies to both public and private universities.