Supreme Court Hearing Anti-Asian American Cases Brought to Harvard, U. North Carolina

Justices to hear challenge to race in college admissions.

QUICK FACTS:
  • Affirmative action could soon be overturned as Supreme Court takes up lawsuits claiming that Harvard University, a private institution, and the University of North Carolina, a state school, discriminate against Asian American applicants, The Associated Press reports.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday it will hear cases challenging Harvard and UNC’s affirmative action policies that take race into account for admissions.
  • Arguments are expected to take place in the fall, AP notes.
  • 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, Forbes reports.
  • 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.
WHAT SUPPORTERS OF OVERTURNING AFFIRMATIVE ACTION SAY:
  • Students for Fair Admissions claims that Harvard imposes a “racial penalty” on Asian American applicants by systematically scoring them lower in some categories than other applicants and awarding “massive preferences” to Black and Hispanic applicants, AP notes.
  • “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,” reports Forbes.
WHAT HARVARD AND UNC SAY:
  • 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, according to Forbes.
  • Forbes went on to report how Harvard has 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%.
BACKGROUND:
  • Lower courts had rejected the challenges, citing more than 40 years of high court rulings that allow colleges and universities to consider race in admissions decisions, AP reports.
  • Harvard’s website says freshman class is about one-quarter Asian American, 16% Black, and 13% Hispanic.
  • President Trump in 2018 had supported earlier cases against Harvard, his admin. filing its own lawsuit alleging discrimination against Asian American and white people at Yale University. The Biden administration dropped the Yale suit.
  • 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,” according to Forbes.