The US Supreme Court on Monday (Jan 24) agreed to hear a petition challenging racial preferences for admissions at Harvard University (the nation's oldest private college), and University of North Carolina (the nation's oldest public college).
The federal lawsuits was brought in 2014 by Students for Fair Admissions(SFA), a nonprofit membership organization, alleging that Harvard and UNC's admissions policies discriminate against Asian-American and white applicants.
This lawsuit asked the Court to recognize that the principles enshrined in 14th Amendment's guarantee of racial neutrality and contended that admission based on affirmative action violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. The petition also asks the court to uphold the Title VI that forbids federal funding recipients from using race in admissions.
SFA also asked the Supreme Court to overturn a 2003 Supreme Court ruling( in a case called Grutter v. Bollinger) that held that colleges could consider race as one factor in the admissions process.
After a three-week trial in 2018, a district court in Boston ruled in Harvard's favor. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld the lower court's opinion. The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in February, 2021.
Harvard had argued that getting rid of race considerations in its admissions would result in “steep declines in diversity,” noting taking race out of the equation entirely would reduce enrollment of Black students at the school from 14% to 6% of its student body, and Hispanic enrollment from 14% to 9%.
University of North Carolina claimed that it “considers race flexibly as merely one factor among numerous factors” in its admissions process.
Conservative majority Supreme Court
While the Supreme Court has previously upheld affirmative action, it has now a 6-3 conservative majority which could have a potential bearing on the case.
Arguement Against Affirmative Action By Students for Fair Admissions(SFA)
Edward Blum, an affirmative action activist and president of SFA, praised praised the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the matter.
"We are grateful the Supreme Court accepted these important cases for review. It is our hope that the justices will end the use of race as an admissions factor at Harvard, UNC and all colleges and universities." he said.
Blum added, "Both the Pew Research Center and Gallup have released surveys which indicate that nearly 75% of Americans of all races do not believe race or ethnicity should be a factor in college admissions. In a multi-racial, multi-ethnic nation like ours, the college admissions bar cannot be raised for some races and ethnic groups but lowered for others. Our nation cannot remedy past discrimination and racial preferences with new discrimination and different racial preferences."
Blum noted, "Harvard and the University of North Carolina have racially gerrymandered their freshman classes in order to achieve prescribed racial quotas. Every college applicant should be judged as a unique individual, not as some representative of a racial or ethnic group."
Blum concluded, "The cornerstone of our nation's civil rights laws is the principle that an individual's race should not be used to help or harm them in their life's endeavors. We hope the Supreme Court will use these cases to begin the restoration of the colorblind legal covenant that holds together Americans of all races and ethnicities."
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