The high court will hear two cases this term that could determine the constitutionality of race-conscious admissions policies—and the decision could fundamentally reshape higher education across America.
The high court will hear both cases on Oct. 31. The group Students for Fair Admissions, which says its mission is to help “restore colorblind principles to our nation’s schools, colleges and universities,” has brought both lawsuits, asking the court to preclude any consideration of race as a factor in admissions.
The first case, Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College
, alleges that Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policy discriminates against Asian American applicants, arguing that Asian Americans are significantly less likely to be admitted than similarly qualified Hispanic, Black, or white students. The plaintiffs argue Harvard’s policy violates Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act, which bans racial discrimination in institutions that receive federal funding. Harvard responds that it does not discriminate against Asian American applicants, argues that the plaintiffs are citing misleading statistics, and contends that race-conscious admission policies are legal. Both the district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit upheld Harvard’s admissions policy. (Jackson will recuse herself
from the case, as she served on Harvard’s Board of Overseers.)
The second case, Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina
, argues that UNC’s consideration of race in admissions not only violates Title VI, but also violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, which extends to public universities. The plaintiffs argue UNC discriminates against white and Asian applicants by awarding “racial preferences” to Black, Hispanic, and Native American students because they are classified by the school as underrepresented minorities. UNC responds that its policies are lawful and are intended to build a diverse, holistic student body.