Affirmative Action

Supreme Court To Hear 2 Cases Challenging Race-Based College Admissions

The Supreme Court could decide the fate of affirmative action at public and private universities.

|

The Supreme Court will soon consider whether race-conscious admissions practices at Harvard and the University of North Carolina (UNC) are constitutional. 

The court agreed today to hear both Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina in the next term. These high-profile cases are likely to determine the future of race-conscious practices, colloquially known as affirmative action, in college admissions. 

The Harvard case centers on claims by that the university's admissions process discriminates against Asian applicants. The Asian-American plaintiffs claim that Harvard penalizes Asian applicants through use of personality ratings, which work to create an effective ceiling for them in admissions. The plaintiffs argue that Harvard rated Asian applicants lower on traits such as likability, courage, and kindness. An internal study from Harvard showed that Asians would comprise 43 percent of the admitted class if only academics were considered in the admissions process. Instead, Asian Americans made up 25.9 percent of Harvard's admitted students for the class of 2025.   

Harvard argues that the plaintiffs used a flawed analysis and that they do not discriminate against Asian applicants. In a brief asking the Supreme Court to deny review, Harvard defended race-conscious admissions policies and said that these policies help the university fulfill its institutional mission of educating "citizens and student leaders for our society." 

The UNC case argues that the school unfairly discriminates against Asian and white applicants by giving admission preferences to underrepresented minorities. UNC defended its admissions practices in a public statement published on their website: "We prepare students to become the next generation of leaders and enhance the quality of life for all North Carolinians. Students, faculty, and business leaders who hire hundreds of our graduates each year say the strength of a Carolina education lies in the diversity of experiences among our student body."

The cases were built with the help of Students for Fair Admissions founder Edward Blum, a legal activist who The New York Times describes as "a matchmaker bringing together two forces: students and others who believe they are being mistreated in the name of racial justice, and conservative donors who finance his work and that of the high-powered, establishment Republican lawyers who take the cases to court." Blum played a role in Abigail Fisher's lawsuit against affirmative action at the University of Texas, which ultimately did not succeed.   

Race-conscious admissions policies are deeply unpopular in some surveys. A 2019 survey from Pew Research Center found that most Americans—including 62 percent of blacks, 65 percent of Hispanics, 78 percent of whites, and 58 percent of Asians—believed that race should not be a factor in admissions decisions.

The Harvard economist Richard Kahlenberg has compiled data that shows Harvard could actually increase the number of underrepresented minority admissions by using socioeconomic preferences while dropping legacy preferences. From 2014 to 2019, Harvard admitted 33 percent of legacy applicants, as opposed to roughly 5 percent of the general applicant pool. The median Harvard student comes from a family that earns $168,000 a year, and poor students are outnumbered by well-off students by a ratio of 23-to-1

In the United Kingdom, Oxford University has been able to increase the number of minority students on campus through outreach programs, even while maintaining a completely race-neutral admissions process. 

"Of course, a truly diverse student body may produce a number of benefits. It might teach tolerance, acceptance, and open-mindedness," reads an amicus curiae petition filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation, the Reason Foundation (which publishes this website), the Center for Equal Opportunity, the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, and several other parties. "But none of those purported benefits can justify the harm of racial preferences: racial discrimination."

NEXT: 'These Kids Are So Anxious and Depressed They Can't Do Anything for Themselves'

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. In the world of Atlas Shrugged, the colleges and universtied would just raise their price until they get just as many people willing to pay the tuition as they have seats for student. No affirmative action required.

    1. No, Atlas Shrugged was Ayn Rand's dystopia, not her depiction of her idea of an ideal world. Seriously, have you ever read it?

      1. Yes, read it a couple of times. And it was not a dystopia, but how to redeem the dystopia.

        And I had in mind the idea of Midas Mulligan running the colleges.

    2. Better phrase that as "in Galt's Gulch".

  2. Yeah, adjusting standardized test scores to disadvantage a particular racial minority seems like an obvious equal protection violation. There are other ways to consider non-academic factors without putting a thumb on the scale.

    1. Like your melanin score?

    2. One could argue that discrimination by a private university does not intersect with the 14th Amendment. (Conversely, you could argue that by accepting so much Federal funding, the university has become a government actor.)

      However:

      1. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which has been ruled Constitutional) imposes a duty of non-discrimination on private universities, among many other parties.
      2. Given that the government has chosen to regulate admissions of private universities that do accept Federal funds, that regulation is subject to equal protection. In other words, if Harvard is allowed to discriminate against Asians to promote “diversity”, another school is allowed to discriminate against blacks to promote white supremacy.

  3. The plaintiffs argue that Harvard rated Asian applicants lower on traits such as ... courage...

    Are you calling them... yella?

  4. In this instance, minority does not include Asian. Correct?

    1. As a grad student in electrical engineering I can gaurentee you Asian was not the minority

  5. Affirmative action is wonderful and anybody who objects to it falls into one of three categories:
    (a) racists (if they're white)
    (b) self-loathing sellout Uncle Toms (if they're Black)
    (c) white-supremacy-upholding wannabe whites who will never be fully accepted as white (if they're Asian American)

    #DiversityAboveAll

  6. I would cut off a foot if someone @SC would offer that maybe there *aren't* races and we're all wasting our times with the concept.

  7. Finally, an example of "systemic racism." Colleges need to move toward merit admission, just like the National Football League or any other organization that wants accomplishments even at the expense of diversity.

    1. What, you don't think an all-black team is "diverse"?

  8. "Of course, a truly diverse student body may produce a number of benefits. It might teach tolerance, acceptance, and open-mindedness"

    As the minority students self-segregate and demand their exclusive race-space.

    1. I love that skin color diversity is the obsession, not intellectual diversity.

      1. I don't. I think, much rather, it's deplorable that skin pigmentation should matter. Diversity as to culture and languages, arts and cuisine, is a different matter altogether.

        1. Perhaps you should learn a concept called "sarcasm".

    2. This is their immoral, religious world-view. There is no evidence to back up that systemic racism produces any benefits. Judging someone not by who they are and what they've done, but by who / what their father was, is immoral, unconstitutional, and un-american.

      1. Actually, I think all the evidence is that diversity produces problems, not benefits. It tends to reduce social cohesion in a society.

        Mind, it's possible for there to be too much social cohesion, so that's a mixed bag. But the benefits of racial and ethnic diversity, (Outside of cuisines and dating.) is more an article of faith, than empirically grounded.

    1. Damn it! Most of it is behind a paywall.

    2. I know, right? After 4 years of Statesman Trump as president who only had kind words to say about members of the media, it is just outrageous that Biden would have mean words to say about anyone in the media. Truly, truly shameful.

      1. I'm just happy to know that if Biden does it, our Democracy remains rock-bottomed and copper-sheathed.

      2. In this thread, chemjeff misses the "descent into dementia" to reshape the argument to his liking.

        1. Maybe fatty understands shatty.

      3. So basically Biden is the same as Trump. Good to know there's no reason not to vote for Trump if he runs in 2024

        1. Mean hot mic moments!

      4. Quick jeff. Deflect fr biden!

      5. So…you’re ok with it or not Lefty Jeffy?

      6. Seems odd that Trump doing so was an attack on democracy, but Biden doing the same thing was just a "Deadpanned" comment, per CNN.

        If it was wrong for Trump, as you claimed it was...why is it not wrong for Biden? Because you sure are not condemning it.

        1. Because Trump is literally Hitler and Biden is simply "Gaffe prone". Why is this so hard for deplorables to understand?

        2. It is wrong for both Biden and Trump. I don't mind condemning both, while at the same time, mocking Team Red when they fake outrage when the same thing that they did is done to them.

          1. Pointing out hypocrisy is not fake outrage. But I understand how YOU don’t understand that.

            1. The fox anchors wereaighing at it.

              Jeff is such a hypocritical shit weasel he doesn't understand when people are laughing at his hypocrisy and screams it is outrage.

              1. Were laughing*

          2. Unicorn wasn’t outraged though…

          3. But you didn't condemn both. You deflected from one.

      7. Trump wasn’t in the habit of attacking oriole who asked him fair policy questions. He attacked people who attacked him first. Which is how democrats like you operate.

        1. I do recall Trump talking down reporters, and even insulting them, but I don't particularly recall him swearing at them. (Granted, I could have missed a few epithets.)

          But my experience with people starting into dementia is that they tend to lose their filters. This can result in people you wouldn't expect it of becoming pretty foul mouthed.

          Does Biden have a long history of swearing at reporters at news conferences? If not, this is a bad sign. If yes, not so much.

          1. I renege that he's threatened to fight people at conferences before, so I think he's always been this way.

      8. Biden spe fiscally ran on being "normal" and "civil". If you have to defend him with "Trump did it, too" then he failed in his raison d'etre for being president.

      9. That's a piss-poor dodge into whataboutism. Trump may have been adversarial, combative even, but he did not swear at the press even if they deserved it.

      10. I'm so old I remember when the house leftists pretended to oppose whataboutism.

  9. The Supreme Court will soon consider whether race-conscious admissions practices at Harvard and the University of North Carolina (UNC) are constitutional.

    Food for thought... if an institution were found to be explicitly favoring white kids over black kids, would we refer to those polices as "race-conscious admissions"?

    1. The KKK was really just mostly peacefully protesting to raise racial awareness.

      1. Obligatory

        Yes, that is John Denver in the middle.

        1. You mean Heinrich Johan Deutschendorf Jr. ?

  10. The next Republican President just needs to order the IRS to apply the Bob Jones University v. United States precedent. Strip the Ivies of 501(c)(3) status and send 'em a tax bill.

    1. They also need to take a long look at these phony media outlets that are straight up DNC propaganda agents and go after them for campaign finance violations. CNN comes to mind.

      Fair is fair. Obama had Dinesh D’Souza tried and imprisoned.

  11. It's not been my experience that Asians lack likability, courage, and kindness. Now their driving skills on the other hand...

    1. We've all seen Kung Fu movies. Courage is off the charts. Likability and kindness, though...

  12. If there is nothing wrong with Harvard doing this, why would it have been wrong for South Africa to do this in the 1980's?

    1. That's different because reasons.

      1. I wonder what those reasons are.

        1. Prog Reasons.

          Now, shaddup and git to the Gulag.

    2. "... why would it have been wrong for South Africa to do this in the 1980's?"

      Ask Brandon, I hear he got arrested there for protesting Apartheid.

  13. "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the content of their character but by the colour of their skin." - t. Harvard admissions

  14. Of course, a truly diverse student body may produce a number of benefits. It might teach tolerance, acceptance, and open-mindedness,

    That's exactly what the truly diverse groups of the Latin kings, and black disciples teach in Chicago!

  15. On surveys if you indicate you are Hispanic or Latino it will further ask what kind and list 20+ different categories (Spanish, Mexican, Puerto Rican, etc) But everyone from Turkey to Vladivostok is lumped in as Asian.

  16. Race-based anything on the governmental level is clearly unconstitutional via the Equal protection clause. It is also illegal via the civil rights act. Lastly, it is extremely immoral and un-american.

    No wonder Democrats like it so much. Their party hasn't changed a damn since 1860

  17. Are we really pretending that the SC;s decision will stop affirmative action in schools? Didn't they rule against it before and the schools just changed the terms and jargon and kept on doing the same thing as before? The far left does as it pleases and will simply ignore the SC.

    1. You're exactly correct, Augustine.
      In Commiefornia, the voters outlawed racial preferences and it didn't slow down the racialists for a second.
      Supreme Court decisions are rock-ribbed edicts for conservatives, but mild suggestions for the communists.

  18. These high-profile cases are likely to determine the future of race-conscious practices, colloquially known as affirmative action, in college admissions.

    It is not true that Affirmative Action and Race Preferences are the same programs. In reality AA was always sold as outreach to minorities and race preferences were understood to be illegal. Of course it was always a bait and switch, with schools defending their illegal programs by claiming to the public they were just advertising in minority media and coordinating with minority schools. Only when they were caught and forced to admit what they were doing did people begin to pretend AA included race preferences.

  19. As Ron Unz documented in Meritocracy, the chief result of affirmative action is for Jews to displace Gentiles within the shrinking portion of admissions granted to Whites. https://www.unz.com/runz/the-myth-of-american-meritocracy/

    1. "As Ron Unz documented in Meritocracy, the chief result of affirmative action is for Jews to displace Gentiles within the shrinking portion of admissions granted to Whites."

      Let me introduce you to the other anti-semite here: Misek. He claims the Nazis were just trying to delouse the Jews, but couldn't get the dose right.
      What's your excuse?

  20. "Diversity" is a demographic anomaly of no particular interest, detriment, or benefit.

  21. A lot of attention to the development of green energy in the field of space developments will allow the United Kingdom to become one of the advanced states, which takes care not only about profits but also the purity of the work of its production Cornwall Spaceport . The world community takes efforts to change this situation, I hope the results will not make you wait.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.