As I am sure many of you know, last week, the United States Supreme Court released a flurry of decisions at the end of its session, most significantly, to overturn the landmark ruling on Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, revoking a person’s constitutional right to obtain an abortion in the United States. As your university president, a woman, and a parent, the overturning of 50 years of precedent is concerning to me and what it means for each of you.
This decision pushes the governance of abortion back to the states, 13 of which have “trigger laws” on the books which make abortion immediately illegal. One such state is Missouri, where Graceland’s nursing school and other graduate programs operate. The state of Iowa is exploring similar legislation to ban abortion, but as of this moment, abortion is still legal in the state of Iowa. Likewise, many other states will be considering possible legislation regarding their respective state laws regarding abortion rights.
Other key rulings included striking down a law in New York state limiting who can carry concealed weapons, and decisions are expected in the coming days regarding environmental protections (West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency), and asylum seekers (Biden v. Texas). These decisions could have a significant impact on the global climate crisis as well as future immigration policy. In the fall, the Court will also consider race-conscious admissions for colleges which could have the effect of decreasing access to higher education. These are important decisions that we must engage in dialogue about together.
In addition, last week was the 50th anniversary of the enactment of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) and the Department of Education announced a new set of proposed regulations which “will restore vital protections for students in our nation’s schools,” according to the Department. These proposed changes come after a significant overhaul of regulations that went into effect in August 2020. Title IX forever changed higher education for the better, banning sex-based discrimination in educational programs that receive federal funding and, as a result, greatly expanded opportunities for women in collegiate athletics, student activities, and in the classroom. Graceland will ensure that these changes to Title IX are incorporated into applicable Graceland policies.
Legal decisions like these will likely have far-reaching and immeasurable impacts. Equitable access to healthcare, gun safety, humane and just immigration policies, and admission practices for higher education are critical issues of social responsibility, personal and community health, and the safety of you, our students, and your families.
This swirling tangle of legislative and moral debate ultimately calls us to action as world citizens and as Gracelanders. Education is an important part of that action. We are confident that you and your peers are equipped with the skills to delve into these important legal, social, moral, and ethical issues. Our university has long stood for the open and free pursuit of knowledge. That pursuit is a lifelong journey, one that hopefully sparks continued curiosity as we grow and evolve. I encourage all of you to continue educating yourself on the issues and carefully consider perspectives that differ from your own.
To those of you in classes now, engage in dialogue about how this relates to your course content and program of study and how you can have your voice heard. And to those of you returning in the fall, please know Graceland will work with student leaders to provide a safe environment for forums and small group dialogues on these important topics.
The debate around these issues can be extremely charged, as is true for many topics when civil rights are central to the discussion. Our collective views likely span the political spectrum, and our positions on these topics are diverse. That diversity of thought makes us a healthy academic community yet aligned by our common values. To engage fully and respectfully, talk with your friends, your family, and others, especially if you have differing views. We need to listen and learn from one another to understand the issues fully and build common ground for all of us.
Now more than ever, your engagement and your voice are important.