US Supreme Court Strikes Down Race-based College Admissions

U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down University Race-conscious Admissions Policies

US Supreme Court Strikes Down Race-based College Admissions

The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a significant blow to affirmative action policies in higher education on Thursday. In a decision that impacts Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, the court ruled against race-conscious student admissions programs. These programs aimed to increase the representation of underrepresented minority groups, such as Black and Hispanic students, on campus.

The lawsuit challenging these admissions programs was brought by Students for Fair Admissions, an organization founded by anti-affirmative action activist Edward Blum. The group argued that the programs used by Harvard and UNC were not in line with the principles of equal protection under the law.

This ruling marks another major decision influenced by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court. In June 2022, the court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision and expanded gun rights through two significant rulings.

While many educational institutions, corporations, and military leaders have supported affirmative action as a means to address racial inequity and foster diversity, critics have long contested these policies. They argue that affirmative action itself is discriminatory.

A substantial number of colleges and universities in the U.S., approximately 40%, consider race as a factor in their admissions process, according to Harvard.

Both Harvard and UNC have maintained that race is just one aspect among many that they consider during the evaluation of applicants. They assert that eliminating race-conscious admissions policies would lead to a significant decline in the enrollment of underrepresented minority groups.

Opponents of these policies, particularly conservatives and Republican elected officials, claim that providing preferential treatment based on race is unconstitutional, irrespective of the motivation or circumstances. Some argue that remedial preferences are no longer necessary since the nation has moved past the segregation era and is becoming increasingly diverse.

This legal dispute gave the conservative majority on the Supreme Court an opportunity to overturn previous rulings that permitted the use of race-conscious admissions policies.

Blum’s organization, Students for Fair Admissions, filed lawsuits in 2014 accusing UNC of discriminating against white and Asian American applicants, while alleging bias against Asian American applicants at Harvard.

The group argued that UNC’s non-neutral admissions policy, as a public university, violates the equal protection guarantee under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. They also contended that Harvard, as a private university, violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits race-based discrimination in programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance.

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Lower courts rejected the claims made by Students for Fair Admissions, leading to appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court. The group sought to overturn a key precedent that allowed colleges to consider race as one factor in the admissions process, citing the compelling interest of creating a diverse student body.

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Affirmative action has withstood scrutiny from the Supreme Court for decades, including a 2016 ruling involving a white student supported by Blum, who sued the University of Texas after being denied admission.

Since 2016, the Supreme Court has shifted to the right, and with the appointment of three new justices by former President Donald Trump, the court now includes three dissenting voices from the University of Texas case.

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