Supreme Court to hear cases on college admissions and affirmative action

SCOTUS is slated to hear cases dealing with how white applicants and Asian Americans fare in the college admissions process.

Nick Monroe Cleveland Ohio

The Supreme Court of the United States on Monday agreed to review in their next term the issue of affirmative action, as they've approved adding cases involving the University of North Carolina and Harvard to their docket.

When it comes to the Biden administration's stance on the news, White House press secretary Jen Psaki says: "We strongly believe this administration, in the benefits of diversity and higher education and we take very seriously our commitment to advancing equity and equal opportunity for historically underserved populations."

Both of the cases being considered by SCOTUS were brought forward by the Students for Fair Admissions group. A timeline from the Boston Globe shows how SFFA has been litigating this matter since the Obama administration in 2014.

Here's a summary of both cases per the BBC:

  • Harvard University: alleges that Asian Americans have a higher barrier for entry into the private university compared to applicants from other racial backgrounds. In October 2019, a federal judge had cleared Harvard of discriminating against Asians in favor of blacks and Hispanics in a high-profile civil rights lawsuit.
  • University of North Carolina: alleges that white applicants have a harder time when compared to their "black, Hispanic, and Native American" counterparts. It was back in October 2021 that a federal judge ruled in favor of UNC about their admissions policies.

According to the outlet, Harvard President Lawrence Bacow strongly disapproves of the move, since he believes it "puts at risk 40 years of legal precedent granting colleges and universities the freedom and flexibility to create diverse campus communities."

"The cases likely will be argued next term," according to SCOTUSblog.

The additions of three conservative justices during the Trump administration are highlighted by some as a factor to consider for the upcoming consideration of this pair of cases. But on an even larger scale, the history of how SCOTUS has handled college admissions decisions is also at play.

2003's Grutter v. Bollinger decision made it acceptable for universities to use race as a factor in general, but it stopped short of allowing for quotas.

Most notably, Justice Clarence Thomas has previously gone on record saying SCOTUS should've "gutted affirmative action" a long time ago.


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