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Blog . U.S. Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action


U.S. Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action

06/30/23  |  Posted by Kathryn Heidemann  |  Posted in President

The Cleveland Institute of Art was founded on the principle of empowerment. We opened in 1882 as the Western Reserve School of Design for Women and provided an education to those who, historically, had been neither welcomed nor encouraged to pursue a career beyond domestic service.

It's with this in mind that, on behalf of your College leadership, I write to share our disappointment with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to strike down affirmative action in college admissions.

This ruling—which stands to make education less attainable for prospective students across the country and reduce the rich diversity of many educational communities—goes against everything CIA has stood for during our 140-year history. Not only that, the ruling stands in direct opposition to at least two of our College's institutional values: accessibility and inclusivity.

If you missed the news, you can catch up here. Affirmative action is a decades-long practice of expanding opportunity for individuals belonging to groups regarded as disadvantaged or subject to discrimination—a practice employed to right the wrongs put into effect by generations of systemic racism and prejudice.

CIA has worked for years to support underserved students by creating—and increasing—pathways to successful college applications. CIA does not consider race, per se, but rather access and context. We're making conscious choices to increase the number of future artists and designers of color on campus. We believe doing so enriches our learning environment and reflects the communities we serve.

The Supreme Court decision will not affect how we structure CIA's outreach and community partnerships, nor how we invest CIA scholarship dollars. Our strategy is to connect with aspiring artists and designers early and often.

We consider the types of courses the student can take, especially in art and design, and what they took advantage of if they had the opportunity. We also consider when a student has not had access to these types of courses or supplies. We consider whether a student had pressing family responsibilities that demonstrate maturity and leadership, rather than formal art training.

We consider the whole picture and aim to admit students who are prepared for the rigor and expectations of private art college—but proof of preparedness takes many different forms. Focusing on access and context has proven successful for CIA over the past 15 years—when diversity within our student body has risen from 15 percent to 32 percent—and we intend to continue using this approach.

Long story short, if you're a student here at CIA, please know—without doubt or hesitation—that you have the tenacity, talent and creativity to be here. You belong here. That goes for CIA faculty and staff, too—wholeheartedly.

Please also know that you're wanted here. Diversity of ideas, thoughts, perspectives and lived experiences make our community stronger. They make our society stronger, too. Diversity is also inherent to art, design and the creative process, and CIA is at its best when we learn from each other or have our assumptions challenged by our classmates and colleagues.

Those are things we celebrate at CIA, and on behalf of our leadership team, I assure you the Supreme Court's decision won't change our commitment to making CIA a welcoming—and empowering—place to learn.

We encourage CIA community members who wish to continue engaging on this topic to reach out to CIA's IDEA Council. If you're a student and have questions or concerns, we encourage you to share them with Dean of Students Jesse Grant at or Chief Inclusion and Equity Officer Charise Reid at

Kathryn J. Heidemann
President + CEO

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