NAICU Washington Update

Legal Attacks on Affirmative Action Continue

February 26, 2021

Students for Fair Admissions, an advocacy group that opposes affirmative action, has appealed a circuit court ruling that upheld Harvard University’s race-conscious admissions program. The legal challenge sets up a potential showdown on affirmative action at the Supreme Court. 

Separately, Students for Fair Admissions has also filed a lawsuit against Yale University, alleging that Yale’s admissions practices discriminates against Asian-American and white applicants. 

The Harvard lawsuit began in 2014, when the student and parent advocacy group sued the university, claiming its admissions program unlawfully discriminates against specific groups, including Asian Americans. After a highly publicized trial, a federal district court ruled in favor of Harvard, a decision that was subsequently upheld by an appellate court.

Given the recent realignment of the balance of power on the Supreme Court, it is possible the appeal of the Harvard decision by Students for Fair Admissions could result in invalidation of not only the university’s admissions program, but also affirmative action programs altogether. Should the case be heard by the Supreme Court, NAICU is likely to join an amicus brief in support of Harvard. NAICU joined a similar brief at the appellate level. 

Meanwhile, under the Trump Administration, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Yale shortly after the agency issued a finding alleging that the school’s race-conscious admissions program violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in federally funded programs or activities. The Biden Administration withdrew the lawsuit, prompting Students for Fair Admissions to file its own legal challenge to Yale’s admissions practices. 

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