The Supreme Court issued an order on Monday announcing that it has agreed to hear an appeal that challenges affirmative action in college admissions. A group of plaintiffs with Asian ancestry claim in two cases brought by Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) that they have been unconstitutionally discriminated against because of their ethnicity.
SFFA is a nonprofit organization that advocates against admissions processes it claims operates to discriminate between groups of college applicants in violation of the Constitution. In these cases, SFFA argues that Harvard uses an undergraduate admissions process that works against Asian-American students and that the University of North Carolina discriminates against both Asian-American and white applicants. The cases were brought to attack the discriminatory policies of both private and public colleges and universities.
The lower federal courts have rejected the plaintiffs’ claims, holding that earlier Supreme Court cases uphold the rights of the schools to consider race as a factor in admissions decisions as part of official policy to promote diversity.
Over the decades, the court has issued several opinions about affirmative action in admissions. In 2003, the court ruled in favor of the University of Michigan using race as a “plus factor” in measuring all candidates’ attributes. In 2016, the court upheld the admissions policy of the University of Texas against the discrimination claim of a white female applicant.
Since 2016, President Donald Trump appointed three new justices to the court, adding support to Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and John Roberts. They were part of a forceful dissent to the 2016 University of Texas decision. Those three older justices also have a track record of opposing affirmative action policies in general.
SSFA President Edward Blum said that the group is grateful to the Supreme Court for accepting the cases for review. He said the organization hopes that the court will end the practice of allowing race to be an admission factor at schools nationwide.
He added that America’s civil rights laws are based on the principle that the government should not use a person’s race to harm or help them “in their life’s endeavors.”
The cases are expected to be scheduled for briefing, arguments, and a final decision in the court’s next term, with the final ruling expected next year.