The Supreme Court heard two cases on Monday that could lead justices to rule against affirmative action, a policy by which universities promote individuals of various minority groups in admissions processes.
Students for Fair Admissions, a legal advocacy group which opposes affirmative action, has filed complaints against both Harvard University and the University of North Carolina for “employing racially and ethnically discriminatory policies and procedures” when accepting students. The lawsuit against Harvard argued that Asian-American students need significantly higher standardized test scores to gain entrance into elite colleges.
Conservative-leaning members of the Supreme Court expressed a high degree of skepticism toward race-conscious admissions practices as lawyers for both universities presented their arguments. Justice Brett Kavanaugh said that such policies are “potentially dangerous and must have a logical end point,” while Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked attorneys for the University of North Carolina when the “sunset” for the policies can be expected. Justice Clarence Thomas said that he has “heard the word ‘diversity’ quite a few times” and does not “have a clue what it means.”
“College admissions are a zero-sum game,” Justice Samuel Alito added, according to a report from Reuters. “And if you give a ‘plus’ to a person who falls within the category of under-represented minority, but not to somebody else, then you are disadvantaging the other student.”
Numerous studies have indeed highlighted the disadvantages faced by Asian-Americans in college admissions processes seeking to reserve places for black and Hispanic students. One study from 2009 concluded that Asians required an SAT score approximately 140 points higher than white applicants, 270 points higher than Hispanic applicants, and 450 points higher than black applicants, according to a report from the Asian American Coalition for Education.
Justices on the Supreme Court opposed to affirmative action may have an advantage in the case against Harvard, as Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, a liberal appointed by President Joe Biden, recused herself since she recently concluded a six-year term on the Harvard Board of Overseers.
Conservative policy analysts at the Heritage Foundation said that the Supreme Court has an opportunity to “correct a wrong that has unfairly punished students across this country seeking to attend the school of their choosing,” according to a press release provided to The Daily Wire.
“American colleges and universities should welcome all students who have the academic capabilities, interests, and values to perform well in their institutions,” Heritage Foundation Center for Education Policy Director Lindsey Burke remarked. “They should reject racial preferences in favor of genuine diversity — a student body admitted based on merit that has a wide range of life experiences and political and philosophical viewpoints, all of which contribute to a robust climate of free expression and academic inquiry on campus.”
“The college admissions process should be focused on bringing the best and brightest minds to an institution, not making elite liberals feel good about their ‘racial sensitivity,’ which is all the euphemistically named ‘affirmative action’ does,” Heritage Foundation senior fellow Mike Gonzalez added. “Affirmative action does not solve the problem of why members of some groups fall behind academically. It does not address failing public schools, worsening socioeconomic and family formation issues, or high out-of-wedlock birth rates that hold people down. Instead, affirmative action mandates by imperial fiat that a certain percentage of a college must be filled with a certain group.”