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SCOTUS and Affirmative Action: The Questions You Know Are Coming

By June 30, 2023July 10th, 2023No Comments

While the aftershocks of yesterday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court overturning affirmative action in academic admissions will take time to be fully felt, the media and other important stakeholders may be calling you, as a healthcare provider organization, about it today (if they haven’t already).

Get ready.

1. The short-term questions

It’s easy to imagine the questions from a reporter, or from your colleagues, or from your board:

  • What impact will the Supreme Court’s ruling have on your organization?
  • What is your stated position on affirmative action and diversity?
  • How is your organization performing today in its diversity efforts (and, what are those, in a nutshell, please)?
  • What changes now?

Be ready with sharp answers, delivered by the right messenger. And do the work to ensure the questions are answered consistently across your organization.

2. Consider a proactive statement

  • If you have something to say: Be proactive if you’re ready to reiterate a continued commitment to and investment in affirmative action and DEI initiatives. A number of organizations have done just that. Alternatively, this is unlikely the right moment to introduce a new position or announce a new effort (that moment will come later, on the other side of this responsive news cycle).
  • If you have an audience to reassure. Washington University offers an excellent example. This especially applies to academic medical centers. Your tripartite mission to provide medical education, research and patient care means that this ruling will complicate implementation of other health equity requirements being put in place.

3. Reassess and refresh

This week’s decision will appropriately reignite conversations about diversity, inclusion and equity in your workforce and in the delivery of your care. That’s a good thing. And there are no excuses not to be ready for that important discourse.

Gather your team and ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to your organization’s culture, mission and DEI-specific work. Prepare for when it is time to join the conversation by working through the following questions:

  • When it comes to DEI, are the messages we put forth consistent with the actions inside our buildings?
  • How and where can we direct the questions? How do we guide the conversation internally?
  • What resources will our team members need to understand what this ruling means for them and the organization?
  • What objective, research-driven sources can we use to educate stakeholders about DEI, health equity and why affirmative action was instituted in the first place?
  • How do we use this ruling to affirm our commitment and redouble our efforts toward fulfilling our mission?

4. Remember your power

As a healthcare provider, you – your organization, your physicians, your nurses – are among the most trusted voices in the community you serve. Challenging moments like this one are an opportunity to leverage that trust to lead by example.

Because, regardless of the legal and legislative landscape, healthcare must work towards equity. As the AAMC said in its statement: “We will work together to adapt following today’s court decision without compromising these goals. The health of everyone depends on it.”