The Supreme Court appears poised to take on a challenge to affirmative action that, depending on how the court rules, could have massive ramifications for any entity that accepts federal taxpayer dollars.
At issue is a case involving allegations that Harvard University deliberately discriminates in its admissions process against Asian applicants. The justices have asked Biden administration acting Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar to file a brief outlining the federal government’s position and whether the case should be heard or not, Breitbart reported.
Race-based affirmative action
The case, Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, will likely be pushed into the Court’s next session if it is ultimately taken up, according to SCOTUSblog.
The lawsuit was first filed in 2014 and alleged that Harvard was discriminating against Asian applicants in violation of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. The case has now reached the threshold of the Supreme Court after both a district court and the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the university.
At stake is the fundamental question: “Is Harvard violating Title VI [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964] by penalizing Asian-American applicants, engaging in racial balancing, overemphasizing race, and rejecting workable race-neutral alternatives?”
That question raises a thorny dilemma, as the Constitution, the Civil Rights Act, and the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education all stress equal treatment and prohibit the use of race as a determinant factor, particularly when it comes to educational opportunities.
Yet, in two other race-based affirmative action lawsuits within the past 20 years, the court has allowed for such racial preferences as a factor in the school admissions process, first in Grutter v. Bollinger involving the University of Michigan in 2003 and then Fisher v. University of Texas in 2016.
Racial preference practices
Former President Donald Trump’s administration sided with Students for Fair Admissions against Harvard and even filed a similar lawsuit against Yale University, but the Biden administration has already dropped that suit against Yale and is widely expected to side with Harvard.
However, the ideological composition of the Supreme Court is far different now than it was in the two previous cases that allowed for the practice of racial preferences in the admissions process to continue, albeit in a more narrowly tailored way focused on promoting diversity.
According to the Students for Fair Admissions group, Harvard has deliberately scored Asian applicants lower on certain factors while simultaneously granting “massive preferences” for Black and Hispanic applicants.
Harvard, of course, insists that it has done nothing wrong and that its practices are aligned with the prior narrow scope laid out by the court.
Time will tell where the Biden administration comes down on this and if the Supreme Court will allow affirmative action to continue or finally put an end to disparate racial preference practices using federal taxpayer dollars.