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Supreme Court to Decide Whether Colleges Can Consider Race in Admissions Process

The Supreme Court will once again revisit the decision to allow colleges and universities to consider race when admitting applicants.

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The Supreme Court announced it will review whether universities should consider race as a part of admitting applicants on the basis on creating a ‘diverse’ student body, reported The Washington Post. Specifically, the Court will examine admissions at Harvard University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who have previously won against challengers in the lower courts to consider race when evaluating applicants.

The Post referenced the 2003 decision with Grutter v. Bollinger where the Court decided using race in admissions practices is constitutional but only when being used with intentions of diversifying a student body. However, another petition has been filed to challenge this decision and argue these race-based decisions violate the Constitution.

From The Washington Post:

Edward Blum, president of Students for Fair Admissions, the group that spearheaded both challenges, said polls show that Americans strongly disapprove of race-conscious 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,” Blum said in a statement. “Our nation cannot remedy past discrimination and racial preferences with new discrimination and different racial preferences.”

Blum’s group told the Supreme Court it would be fitting to end the use of racial considerations by overturning policies at “the nation’s oldest private college and . . . at the nation’s oldest public college.”

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In its latest decision, the Court upheld in 2016 that the ‘limited use of race’ in applicant evaluations was permitted in a case with the University of Texas. In an opinion written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, he emphasized the ruling basically meant that ‘diversity justified some intrusion on the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection,’ per the Post.

Now, the Court has to make sure race-neutral admission policies can still ensure the school’s diversity. States like California, Michigan and Florida (surprisingly) have already banned the use of race as a consideration for applicants to public universities. Students for Fair Admissions had initially filed a suit against the two schools in 2014 and both schools denied allegations of unlawful bias in the admissions process.

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From The Post:

Harvard’s process, Students for Fair Admissions alleged, was stacked against Asian Americans “based on prejudicial and stereotypical assumptions about their qualifications.” The suit also alleged that the university seeks to engineer the demographics of incoming classes to meet predetermined goals through “racial balancing,” that it gives too much weight to race in making admission decisions and that it failed to give adequate consideration to race-neutral alternatives.

In the North Carolina case, the plaintiff contended that the state’s flagship public university discriminated against White and Asian American students. “UNC uses race mechanically to ensure the admission of the vast majority of underrepresented minorities,” Students for Fair Admission alleged.

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In the Harvard case, the Post reported U.S. District Judge Allison D. Burroughs was not persuaded that the admission process had a racial bias against Asian Americans. As for the UNC Chapel Hill case, U.S. District Judge Loretta C. Biggs found their admission process constitutional and beneficial to students of color instead of ignoring race all together.

“Race is so interwoven in every aspect of the lived experience of minority students. To ignore it, reduce its importance and measure it only by statistical models as [Students for Fair Admissions] has done, misses important context,” Biggs wrote via the Post.

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If the Court decides to prohibit the use of race in college admissions all together, it will certainly send a ripple across all universities and higher education. Hopefully, it will ease the anxiety of Black and brown students sending in their applications in the future.