The Supreme Court May End Affirmative Action
The Supreme Court’s conservative majority is considering ending affirmative action in college admissions.
On Monday, members of the court’s conservative majority questioned the legal rationale of race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina during oral arguments that lasted almost five hours.
“I’ve heard the word diversity quite a few times, and I don’t have a clue what it means,” Justice Clarence Thomas said. “It seems to mean everything for everyone.”
“What do you learn from the mere checking of the box?” Justice Samuel Alito asked UNC lawyer Ryan Park.
A RULING IS DUE BY THE END OF JUNE
The Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, heard arguments in both the UNC and Harvard cases. The case against affirmative action is being led by a group called Students for Fair Admissions, backed by conservative activist Ed Blum.
The group has sued Harvard and UNC in federal court claiming that Harvard’s undergraduate admissions system discriminated against Asian American students and that UNC’s discriminated against both Asian American and white students. While lower courts have ruled that the schools’ limited consideration of race was a legitimate effort to achieve a more diverse student body, a federal ruling is due by the end of June.
The federal court’s conservative justices argue that educational diversity can be achieved without taking account of race. The court’s liberal justices, however, argue that “race does correlate to some experiences and not others.”
“If you’re Black,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said. “you’re more likely to be in an underresourced school. You’re more likely to be taught by teachers who are not as qualified as others. You’re more likely to be viewed as having less academic potential.”
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson highlighted the irony of admissions officers considering factors such as whether applicants were parents, veterans or disabled, but not if applicants themselves were racial minorities. That has “the potential of causing more of an equal protection problem than it’s actually solving,” she said.
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