On October 31, the Supreme Court will hear two cases that will determine the future of Affirmative Action. Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) are suing Harvard and the University of North Carolina (UNC) for considering race in their application process. Additionally, the SFFA says Harvard’s admissions policies discriminate against Asian American applicants.
SFFA is a creation of conservative activist Edward Blum. He claims his nonprofit has 22,000 members who have been wrongly rejected by universities that use racially sensitive criteria to evaluate potential students. None of Blum’s 22,000 alleged victims have testified. However, one was described, but not named, in the Harvard case as a Chinese student with first-generation immigrant parents, perfect test scores, and the best GPA in his class of 460.
In 2022, UNC received 43,500 applications for a freshman class of 4,325. UNC rejected 40,000 applicants. Looking at the top two dozen schools, Blum’s 22,000 students account for just 2% of all rejections at this rate. That number falls to a negligible 0.0055 percent among the top 100 schools.
This isn’t a huge problem, Affirmative Action advocates say, especially given that Harvard and UNC argue that race creates campus diversity in admissions. The Supreme Court has held this to be a legitimate goal since the Bakke case in 1978.
In that case, the judges discarded racial admission quotas but opened the door to the modern diversity justification, upheld by the court in Grutter v. Bollinger: “The non-discrimination clause does not prohibit the narrowly tailored use of race in law school admissions decisions nor does it have a compelling interest in to receive the educational benefits that come from a diverse student body.
flowersuspects that racial registrations violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He has filed four lawsuits in the past few years but has yet to win any. Given the conservative 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court, Blum’s ship could finally arrive.
“I think it’s too early to tell what the Supreme Court will do in relation to the Harvard affirmative action case. Obviously we are very concerned because of the composition of the court, but we also know that for several years positive action cases have remained on the books after repeated attempts by the conservative elements and there is strong precedent for continued use on the books of race in the admissions policy,” said John C. Yang, President and CEO of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC.
Yang spoke about the upcoming SCOTUS cases during a media briefing.
Yang noted that both the district court and the appeals court concluded that there was no evidence of discrimination against Asian Americans.
“In the case of Harvard, Asian American enrollment at Harvard has increased significantly. They make up almost 28% of the last class admitted, even though Asian Americans make up only about 7% of the American population,” he said.
Yang added that a series of polls since 2010 found that two-thirds of Asian Americans support affirmative action. He said if Harvard stopped considering race for admissions, the number of black students would drop from 14% to 6%. Latino students would drop from 14% to 9%. A study by Georgetown University came to the same conclusion.
David Hinojosa is a member of the Civil Rights Under the Law Advocate Committee. He will represent the UNC case in the Supreme Court on October 31 at 10 am.
“A lot of people bet against Affirmative Action. You bet against fairness and odds. But history is on our side; the constitution is on our side; The law is on our side, as are the facts,” Hinojosa said.
The stakes couldn’t be higher, Hinojosa noted.
“They don’t want to just abolish affirmative action. They want to completely whitewash history and restore all privileges from yesterday to today,” he said.
“All students deserve a fair chance to go to college, regardless of their income, where they were raised, or their race and ethnicity,” said Michaele Turnage-Young, LDF Senior Counsel.
She said minority students, who are often poorer than their white counterparts, have fewer opportunities to collect the credentials that colleges consider for admission. They are three to six times more likely than white students to attend high poverty schools.
“And many attend majority-minority schools, which generally, like high-poverty schools, have fewer experienced teachers, less advanced courses, inadequate facilities, fewer extracurricular activities, fewer art classes, fewer breaks, and fewer instructional resources.”
College admissions officials try to balance these things by looking at which minority students are showing the best potential, even if their test scores aren’t the highest.
Plaintiffs in the case say the eligibility criteria should be color blind.
“Our customers, in particular, are concerned that removing race from the admissions process will make it impossible for black applicants to present their authentic selves in their college applications,” said Turnage-Young. Chen repeated this feeling. “We wanted to convey that we don’t want to work at an institution that doesn’t value us,” she said.
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