Fate of Affirmative Action Is on the Docket at the Supreme Court
(DailyVantage.com) – The Supreme Court (SCOTUS) resumed its current session on Monday, October 3, with a host of new cases up for review. On the docket, the judges heard a plaintiff bringing two individual petitions together before the bench. Both address the issue of racial discrimination in colleges. Justices heard arguments for Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. University of North Carolina (UNC) on Monday, October 31. Depending on how the courts rule, the cases could affect affirmative action in college applications — and possibly elsewhere — moving forward.
In the 1960s, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 first established affirmative action to prohibit “discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” The judges felt that all taxpayers paid into the funds and should have access to equal opportunities.
The SFFA v. Harvard and SFFA v. University of North Carolina cases differ in one significant way: UNC receives federal funds, so Title VI binds it, unlike Harvard, a private institution. Yet, the equal protection clause of the US Constitution binds both educational institutions.
Racial Discrimination at the Heart
Both cases contend that the respective schools discriminated against Asian Americans regarding admissions. SFFA v. University of North Carolina claims the college overlooked white and Asian applicants, favoring Hispanic, Native American, and black applicants.
The Harvard case goes a little further. SFFA accuses the Ivy League school of implementing a subjective standard, further judging candidates by personality traits such as courage, kindness, and likeability. The plaintiff alleged subjective judgments created a “standard strong” label excluding the applicants from admission. SFFA further says Harvard’s policies regarding Asian Americans parallel those that singled out Jews in the 1920s.
Both schools say their admissions policies are lawful. Harvard went so far as to say the plaintiffs cherry-picked statements and manipulated statistics, arriving at a wrong conclusion.
What This Could Mean Going Forward
in both cases, the SFFA wants the Supreme Court Justices to overturn its 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger decision. This ruling made it legal for colleges and universities to consider race a factor for admissions.
Should the SCOTUS overturn this decision, the campus admission landscape could change drastically. Yvette Pappoe, a University of DC assistant law professor, told Fox News it would “deepen the existing racial disparities in higher education and other social institutions.” Further, some people believe it could create a domino effect and lead to doing away with affirmative action in the workplace, too.
Observers typically expect the Supreme Court to rule on these two matters next June.
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