By Jaryn Crouson
The Supreme Court suggested Monday that racially-based college admission practices and policies may violate the 14th Amendment.
The cases in question come from Harvard and the University of North Carolina and arrived at the Supreme Court years after they began. The argument in both cases centers around whether race can be seen as a factor in the highly-competitive admissions process. The Court’s decision on this issue will impact admissions policies at colleges and universities across the country.
During Monday’s oral argument, conservative justices made the case against racial discrimination in admissions, stating that these policies are racially exclusionary by definition. They pointed to the district court’s findings in the UNC case that as many as 700 applicants each admission cycle are excluded solely on the basis of race. They also argued that these policies are divisive and may be in opposition to the Equal Protection Clause.
Opposing justices argue that race is not the sole factor involved in admission decisions and regardless, it is used as a plus factor, not a minus factor. It was also said that, as the Court has ruled previously, colleges and universities have an interest in maintaining a diverse student body.
Both sides make the case for equality, with those in favor saying these policies are necessary to ensure equality, while those opposed say the policies directly contradict equality.
These cases were brought to the courts in part due to potential discrimination towards Asian Americans that would not receive this “plus factor.” They may be less likely to be accepted into universities despite their personal academic accomplishments.
Historically, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of racial discrimination in admissions policies. In 1978, the Court declared quota systems for minority students unconstitutional but agreed that there were academic benefits to student body diversity, thus setting precedent for race-based admission policies. In a 2003 case, the Supreme Court ruled against a point-based system at the University of Michigan that arbitrarily boosted members of minority groups compared to non-minority students; however, the Court established that minority students could be given higher consideration as long as it was done on an individual basis.
In an open letter released in response to Monday’s arguments, Harvard President Lawrence Bacow attempted to justify the school’s policies by arguing that having a racial quota for the student population can “bring a wealth of educational benefits” to the institution.
Those opposed to the policies highlight the difference between personal experiences related to racial and cultural differences and race alone as factors for admission.
News of this issue reaching the Supreme Court comes just months after the landmark Dobbs victory, which affirmed the right to life for unborn children.
The prospect of returning to a society in which hard work and personal accomplishments carry more weight than the color of one’ skin is very exciting.
The decision is expected within the next 6-9 months.