Can race continue to be a factor in university admissions? A Harvard University building on August 30, 2018 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
If you thought the Supreme Court threw up some dust overturning Roe v. Wade , watch this current term as the Court considers overturning Grutter v. Bollinger and decides whether “race-conscious” admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina are lawful.
The two cases the Court might use to overturn Grutter , Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina , pose three questions. First, can race be a factor in admissions? Second, has Harvard violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by penalizing Asian-American applicants? And third, quoting the Court, can a university “reject a race-neutral alternative because it would change the composition of the student body, without proving that the alternative would cause a dramatic sacrifice in academic quality or the educational benefits of overall student-body diversity?”
The essential question, then, is this: can race continue to be a factor in university admissions?
In 2003, the Court in Grutter upheld affirmative action in academic admissions, saying race can indeed be considered in admissions decisions alongside things like tests and grades. After being denied admission to University of Michigan Law School, white student Barbara Grutter sued the school, alleging it discriminated against her on the basis of race in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s right to equal protection, as well as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. She claimed, in the words of the Court , that she was rejected because the law school “used race as a ‘predominant’ factor, giving applicants belonging to certain minority groups a significantly greater chance of admission than students […]
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