Affirmative Action Could Soon Be Overturned As Supreme Court Takes Up Harvard And UNC Cases

Posted 112 days ago


The U. S. Supreme Court will hear cases challenging Harvard University and the University of North Carolina (UNC)’s affirmative action policies that take race into account for admissions, the court announced Monday, which could potentially overturn the decades-old practice of affirmative action and threaten gains in diversity at colleges and universities nationwide.

The court announced it would take up the cases without comment, and it’s not clear yet whether the cases will be heard this term or after the Supreme Court’s next term begins in October.

The group Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) sued Harvard University for allegedly discriminating against Asian-American applicants in its admissions process and unfairly favoring other applicants of color, accusing it of using a “racial hierarchy” in its admissions process.

The same group also sued UNC in order to cover both public and private universities—noting UNC is the oldest public college in the U. S.—and alleged the university’s policy violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause by not guaranteeing racial neutrality.

Harvard and UNC have denied the accusations their affirmative action policies are discriminatory and argue they’re in line with previous court rulings upholding the practice, and UNC said it “considers race flexibly as merely one factor among numerous factors” in its admissions process.

Harvard said 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%.

Both the district and appeals court ruled in Harvard’s favor and upheld their admissions policy, and a district court ruled in UNC’s favor, but SFFA appealed the case to the Supreme Court before an appeals court could rule so that it could be heard with the Harvard case.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly held up affirmative action in the past, but there are fears it will now be overturned given the court’s 6-3 conservative majority. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito have already ruled against affirmative action in the past, as has Chief Justice John Roberts, who once wrote, “It is a sordid business, this divvying us up by race.”

“Harvard’s mistreatment of Asian-American applicants is appalling,” SFFA alleged in its Supreme Court complaint, calling the case “the kind of important individual rights dispute that this Court has not hesitated to hear.” “Review thus would be warranted if the defendant were any university subject to Title VI. But it isn’t just any university. It’s Harvard.”

The Supreme Court’s past rulings on affirmative action “sent a powerful signal that div... (Read more)