NAICU Washington Update

Supreme Court Hears Affirmative Action Cases

November 04, 2022

The Supreme Court held oral arguments this week in two cases that will determine the fate of affirmative action in higher education. The two cases – one involving the University of North Carolina (UNC) and the other involving Harvard University – are expected to give the new conservative majority on the Court a chance to overturn long-standing precedents on affirmative action that have narrowly permitted race-conscious admissions programs in higher education. 

During five hours of oral arguments in the UNC and Harvard cases, the conservative Justices did indeed express skepticism about the consideration of race in admissions decisions, questioning the meaning of diversity and whether an endpoint to such programs would ever arrive. The Court’s rulings are expected by June. 

The Harvard lawsuit began in 2014, when Students for Fair Admissions, an advocacy group that opposes affirmative action, sued the university, claiming its admissions program unlawfully discriminates on the basis of race, particularly with respect to Asian American students. After a highly publicized trial, a federal district court ruled in favor of Harvard, a decision that was subsequently upheld by an appellate court. Similarly, a district court ruled in favor of UNC, after which the case went directly to the Supreme Court to be heard in conjunction with the Harvard case. 

NAICU joined an amicus brief in support of both Harvard and UNC.  

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