Judges appear willing to restrict affirmative action on college admissions

Judges appear willing to restrict affirmative action on college admissions

“When does it end; when is your sunset?” Judge Amy Coney Barrett asked North Carolina Attorney General Ryan Park, who is defending UNC.Greater don’t say, “That’s great, we appreciate that.” Greater says this is dangerous and must have an end point.”

Arguments in the case against Harvard focused on whether racially neutral alternatives are sufficient and on claims that the Ivy League institution intentionally discriminates against Asian-American students with the “personal evaluation” used in its holistic admissions process. Conservative judges also questioned the admissions advantages of previous applicants and wealthy prospective students.

The court’s conservative 6-3 majority made clear its alignment with the SFFA, while the court’s liberal judges defended decades of precedent that allowed colleges to use race as the sole factor in admissions.

While the SFFA claims in both cases that using race in admissions violates the equality clause, education and civil rights groups fear that ending the practice will exacerbate inequality in years to come.

“A blanket ban on racially sensitive admissions would result in a sharp decline in racial diversity in many of our country’s premier educational institutions,” US Attorney General Elizabeth Prelogar told the court. “Race-neutral alternatives cannot right now make up the difference … and since college is the training ground for America’s future leaders, the negative consequences would resonate in almost every major institution in America.”

UNC

The arguments in the SFFA case against the UNC began with an interrogation of Judge Clarence Thomas, who advanced a UNC argument that institutions were unable to consider “the whole person in the admissions process” without considering race.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor, a well-known proponent of Affirmative Action, soon began defending the use of racial information in registrations with pointed questions to the SFFA’s attorney. She emphasized how race correlated with students’ experiences.

“If you’re black, you’re more likely to be in an under-resourced school,” Sotomayor told Partick Strawbridge, who argued on behalf of the SFFA in the case against UNC. “You’re more likely to be taught by teachers who aren’t as qualified as others. You are more likely to be seen as less academic as you have less academic potential.

“Why do you want the admissions officer to say, ‘I’m not going to look at the child’s race to see if all these socioeconomic barriers are there?'”

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson echoed Sotomayor in urging Strawbridge to prove how race harmed SFFA students.

“If you give your race, you don’t get any special points … No one automatically gets in because the race is used,” Jackson said.

“They haven’t demonstrated or shown a single situation where they just looked at race,” she added.

However, conservative judges relied heavily on O’Connor’s 2003 claim Greater that the court believed it was not necessary to take race into account in the admissions process.

With O’Connor’s ultimate goal just six years away, Chief Justice John Roberts, Barrett and Justices Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh urged attorneys to argue on behalf of preservation Greater for a deadline. They also wanted to know how institutions will know when to stop using racial attribution to achieve diversity on campus.

“How do you know when you’re done?” asked Barrett Park.

And later Roberts pressed Prelogar.

“Grutter gave us a number,” Roberts said. “Would you like to give us a number?”

To which Prelogar replied, “I can’t give you an exact number, Mr. Chief Justice, but I can say that I think our Society has made some progress toward that goal.”

Harvard

Jackson withdrew from the Harvard case, leaving room for Judge Elena Kagan to play a larger role in Harvard’s arguments for the bank’s liberal flank. She urged Cameron Norris, who represented the SFFA, whether race-neutral alternatives were limited in their ability to achieve diversity.

“Look, everyone would rather achieve all of our racial diversity goals through race-neutral means,” Kagan said. “And that is exactly what our cases say. The question is, if the racial neutral funds don’t get you there, are you prevented from considering race?

Conservative judges again brought up O’Connor’s 25-year timeline.

“But we’re not at that 25-year point yet, are we?” said Barett. “So if it has its own self-destruct mechanism where it says, ‘Hey, Greater says we have to stop because they just don’t work, ‘are we obligated to give more time?

Norris responded that Harvard had not indicated it would stop using race. “I think 20 years is enough to call it,” he said.



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