The Supreme Court’s conservative majority signaled they may be prepared to challenge race-conscious admissions policies, otherwise known as affirmative action, at two major universities.
The justices began discussing the validity and merits of affirmative action Monday as they hear a case from Students for Fair Admissions, a longtime opponent of the policy. SFFA is asking the court to overturn a 2003 decision Grutter v. Bollinger, which established a precedent to allow colleges to consider race when admitting students. They claim the policy discriminates against Asian and White students.
Conservative justices levied several criticisms of race-conscious policies. Narrow, measurable definitions are often among the highest considerations by the court. The 2003 decision indicated that affirmative action should not be necessary indefinitely and would one day be unnecessary. The timeline set out in the decision was 25 years. Justice Amy Coney Barrett questioned whether this suggestion carried any weight.
“Are you saying when you’re up here and it’s 2040, are you still defending it?” Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett said. “Like this is just indefinite?”
Clarence Thomas said he has not understood the meaning of the word “diversity” as it is used to describe student bodies and workplaces. Ryan Park, representing the University of North Carolina, said having a diverse population in the student body reduces “group think,” leading to a wider range of ideas informed by a larger variety of experiences.
“I don’t put much stock in that because I’ve heard similar arguments in favor of segregation too.”
During oral arguments for Students for Fair Admissions v. UNC — which could dismantle affirmative action — Justice Thomas challenges counsel on “educational benefits” of diversity. pic.twitter.com/ktXPJm5HaF
— The Recount (@therecount) October 31, 2022
Two colleges are at the center of this debate: the University of North Carolina and Harvard University. Both will be heard as separate cases. The outcome however, could reverberate even beyond institutions of higher education. The National Football League’s Rooney Rule, for example, has long been criticized for lacking teeth and providing no real solution to create genuine inclusion on the sidelines and in front offices.
While college admissions do consider race, it is just one of many factors under consideration throughout the admissions process.
Liberal justices, who are outnumbered 6-3 in the Supreme Court, defended the need for policies to encourage a diverse population of students that more closely represents the whole of the United States.
“I thought that part of what it meant to be an American and to believe in American pluralism is that, actually, our institutions are reflective of who we are as a people,” Associate Justice Elena Kagan said.
The court’s newest justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson, recused herself from discussing Harvard University because she served on its board of overseers. She noted there is no proof that race has been a deciding factor in an SFFA student not being admitted to a college.
“When you give your race you’re not getting any special points. No one’s automatically getting in because race is being used,” Jackson said.
A decision is likely to come next year.
Copyright 2022 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.