Affirmative action struck down: U.S. Supreme Court rules against race-based admissions by Harvard, University of North Carolina

In a highly anticipated ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court found Thursday that the race-based admissions policies of Harvard and the University of North Carolina violate the Constitution.

The 6-3 ruling in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard reverses the previous decision of a federal judge that found UNC’s admissions policies were legal.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said the admissions policies followed by the two universities violate the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection clause.

“Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it. And the Equal Protection Clause, we have accordingly held, applies ‘without regard to any differences of race, of color, or of nationality’ — it is ‘universal in [its] application,’” wrote Roberts in the opinion.

Critics have long charged the admissions policies violated the Constitution by broadly considering race as a factor in whether a student gains admission to the two universities. Asian students were especially discriminated against under those policies, scoring lower in highly subjective personal likability scores, said critics of the policies.

“Harvard consistently rated Asian-American applicants lower than others on traits like ‘positive personality,’ likability, courage, kindness and being ‘widely respected,’ according to an analysis of more than 160,000 student records filed Friday by a group representing Asian-American students in a lawsuit against the university,” the New York Times wrote in 2018.

Professor Prasad Krishnamurthy of U.C. Berkeley School of Law noted last fall that “higher academic performance didn’t translate into a winning personality for Asians to nearly the same degree that it did for other groups” during Harvard’s admissions process.

The high court had previously allowed the narrow use of raced-based admissions, but only after race-neutral policies were tried and with the understanding that at some point, race-based admissions policies must end.

“We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today,” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote for the majority in a 2003 opinion, which set the so-called “expiration date” for affirmative action policies at 2028 at the latest, according to USA Today.

In this latest landmark ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court has indicated that affirmative action policies have already exceeded their expiration date.

The decision is a blow to progressives who are demanding the expanded use of affirmative action policies as a part of a social justice and equity push, in what critics see as an attempt to avowedly discriminate against white and Asian students in the name of diversity.

“In disavowing race as a factor in achieving educational diversity, the court all but ensured that the student population at the campuses of elite institutions will become whiter and more Asian and less Black and Latino,” the New York Times tweeted in response to Thursday’s ruling.

Several Republican presidential candidates, including former president Donald Trump, former vice president Mike Pence and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, hailed the decision.  

“There is no place for discrimination based on race in the United States, and I am pleased that the Supreme Court has put an end to this egregious violation of civil and constitutional rights in admissions processes, which only served to perpetuate racism,” said Pence. “I am honored to have played a role in appointing three of the justices that ensured today’s welcomed decision, and as president I will continue to appoint judges who will strictly apply the law rather than twisting it to serve woke and progressive ends.”


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