Supreme Court to hear two cases challenging race-based affirmative action university admissions practices

In just a matter of weeks, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in two cases that, while directly pertaining to higher education admissions processes, could have a substantially broader impact across various other aspects of American society.

On Oct. 31, oral arguments will be heard in two separate but similar challenges to the race-based affirmative action admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, Yahoo News reported.

Depending upon how the Supreme Court ultimately decides those two cases, the idea of affirmative action — which critics view as little more than government-approved racial discrimination — could be effectively ended as an acceptable practice for school admissions or hiring policies for businesses and institutions, or other areas where seemingly arbitrary racial quotas in pursuit of “diversity” have been imposed.

Seeking to overturn prior decision upholding race-based affirmative action admissions

The challenges against the race-based affirmative action admissions policies of Harvard and UNC are led by the same group, Students for Fair Admissions, and while both suits seek the same outcome of ending such policies as unconstitutional and unlawful, they are taking two different paths to get there.

According to University of South Carolina law professor Derek Black, the challenge against Harvard alleges that the school, as a private institution, has violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits racial discrimination by recipients of federal funds.

The challenge against UNC, however, a public institution, is based on the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, specifically its guarantee of “equal protection” under the law.

Justice Jackson recused herself from the Harvard case

SCOTUSblog reported that the primary goal sought by Students for Fair Admissions is the same in both cases — for the Supreme Court to overturn its own 2003 ruling in a case known as Grutter v. Bollinger which held that the University of Michigan could continue to consider an applicant’s race as a determining factor in its admissions process in pursuit of a more diverse student body.

Given the similarities in the two cases, they had initially been paired together but were separated in July because new Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson had recused herself from the Harvard case due to the fact that she had just completed a six-year term on Harvard’s Board of Overseers before being nominated and confirmed to the Supreme Court.

Jackson will, however, participate in the UNC case, which sets up the slim possibility that the two cases could have different outcomes, though that seems unlikely.

Big changes could be coming to university admissions processes

Yahoo News reported that Vern Granger, the director of admissions at the University of Connecticut, said that however these cases turn out, “We have to prepare ourselves for potential outcomes. One of those outcomes is going to impact how the use of race is considered in our evaluation process. And there could be some changes with regards to that.”

He pointed to two things that would remain unchanged, and said, “One of those is that you’re going to continue to follow the law. So whatever the law comes out of the court cases as an institution, as a profession, it’s going to be important that we continue to follow that. But also what is going to continue to take place — and we will amplify — is our commitment to diversity and how it is critical to the learning environment of the students at the university, and how we are going to continue to support that in all different forms. But it could impact how we are able to review and select applications.”

“And we’re having conversations internally about what those potential implications could have in our review process,” Granger added. “We are preparing for all the potential outcomes, but we’re not by any means making any changes to our current processes and our outreach efforts until the results of the case.”

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