Supreme Court to Review Affirmative Action Policies At Harvard and UNC

The Supreme Court said Monday it will reconsider race-based affirmative action in college admissions, CNN reports.

The court announced that it will hear two challenges to policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina that use applicants’ race as one of its admissions criteria.

The case will be heard next fall with a decision likely by June 2023.

Lower federal courts previously sided with Harvard and UNC in the cases.

The Supreme Court in 1978 and again in 2003 upheld precedents allowing for affirmative action policies in college admissions but critics sought to challenge the policies again after former President Donald Trump stacked the high court with right-wing justices.

Affirmative action policies have been used for over 40 years and supporters argue that they help disadvantaged students of color. The Harvard lawsuit, however, argues that the same policy disadvantages Asian-American applicants.

Case designed for SCOTUS:

The lawsuits were designed to make it to the Supreme Court.

The Harvard lawsuit was filed under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which bars schools from getting federal funding if they discriminate by race.

The UNC lawsuit similarly cites the statute and the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection of law.

The lawsuits cite Chief Justice John Roberts’ criticism of race-based policies.

"It is a sordid business, this divvying us up by race," he wrote in 2006.

 "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” he wrote in a separate 2007 opinion.

Supporters push back:

The American Council on Education, which represents universities, urged the court to respect existing precedent.

“The rulings affirmed the appropriateness of the manner in which they conducted their activities in light of long-standing precedent,” Peter McDonough, the group’s general counsel, told the Washington Post. “We hope and expect this Supreme Court will consider and respect such precedent.”

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said in a court filing that UNC “has embraced diversity, in all its forms, as a core feature of its educational mission.”

“It considers race flexibly as merely one factor among numerous factors in its holistic admissions process,” he said. “And it has scrupulously studied and adopted workable race-neutral alternatives.”

Harvard also defended the policy in a court filing.

“To assemble the strongest first-year class, Harvard looks for students who excel beyond academics and who will bring distinctive experiences, perspectives, talents, and interests to campus,” the filing says. To find the strongest applicants, “40 admissions officers conduct a time-consuming, whole-person review process in which each applicant is evaluated as a unique individual.”


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