Supreme Court Hearing On Race In Admissions

Supreme Court Hearing On Race In Admissions

Conservative justices expressed doubt repeatedly that colleges and universities would ever agree to an “endpoint” in their use of race to create diverse student bodies. Still, they appeared ready to overturn decades of Supreme Court precedent allowing such decisions on Monday.

After over five hours of discussion, the affirmative action programmes at Harvard and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill appeared severely jeopardised. It is unclear how expansive such a decision may be or what it would mean for other prestigious colleges and state universities, who claim that depending solely on grades and test results could cause a sharp decline in the enrollment of Black and Hispanic students.

Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar warned the judges that overturning the court’s precedents allowing race to be one of several considerations in admission decisions would have “deep ramifications” for “the nation that we are and the society that we hope to be.” She mentioned the military, the medical and scientific institutions, as well as corporate America, and claimed that the adverse effects would be felt by nearly every important institution in America.

However, Conservative judges on the court used the cases as an opportunity to review previous Supreme Court rulings from decades ago that had permitted limited use of racial classifications. They didn’t seem satisfied with claims made by attorneys for the schools that the use of race-conscious policies was about to come to an end. Upon being pressed repeatedly, the attorneys said they could not respond to the question, “When will it end?” with a particular date.

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According to Patrick Strawbridge, a lawyer with Students for Fair Admissions, the court’s decision to permit the use of race in higher education stands out from other rulings and should be overturned. “Skin colour is not one of the considerations the government may employ in selecting jurors to sit, who you may marry, or which primary schools our children can attend,” he stated.

It was the most divisive session this term, and the lengthy discussion required a remarkable time commitment from the court because arguments generally last an hour. The UNC case was heard first and attended by at least four of the justices’ spouses, including Jane Roberts, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, Ashley Kavanaugh, and Patrick Jackson.

The court has narrowly sustained affirmative action. But by overturning Roe v. Wade last term, the court’s newly discovered conservative supermajority showed that it is not frightened of overturning precedent.

The goal of racial variety in student bodies, which previous courts have found compelling interest, was rejected from the outset by Justice Clarence Thomas, the court’s longest-serving member and a frequent opponent of race-conscious programmes. Thomas told North Carolina Solicitor General Ryan Y. Park, “I’ve heard the phrase diversity quite a few times, and I don’t know what it means.

Thomas, the court’s second Black justice, responded that he didn’t “place much weight in that since I’ve heard similar arguments in favour of segregation too” when Park sought to illustrate the advantages of diversity for education. The use of race might be an exception, according to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who frequently tries to play a moderating role among conservatives seeking to advance the law rapidly.

In the past, Roberts has authored the court’s conservative judgments on issues involving the Voting Rights Act and the role of race in assigning students to public schools. In an intense argument with Harvard’s attorney, he expressed his concern for a system in which a student would have higher chances for admission “based entirely on” skin colour.

Seth P. Waxman, the attorney, eventually acknowledged that being African American, Hispanic, or in some situations, Asian American can tip the scales in favour of admission for highly competent applicants after being pressed repeatedly. So, we’re discussing race as a criterion for admission to Harvard,” Roberts added, raising his voice. Waxman said, “Just as being an oboe player in a year when the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra needs an oboe player will be the tip,” that it can be the deciding factor.

We did not wage a civil war over oboe players, Roberts retorted. He remarked that we did wage a civil war to end racial prejudice. “And for that reason, it’s a serious worry. When you argue that this promotes a variety of thoughts, I think you must clarify whether or not giving someone credit based only on skin colour is based on a stereotype. It might not at all promote diversity of opinion in a given situation.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. and others believed that receiving a college admissions advantage automatically put another student at a disadvantage. Alito told the student’s attorney, David Hinojosa, who was defending UNC’s rules on behalf of the students, that if it were “a 100-yard dash, let’s say he gets to start 5 yards closer to the finish line.”

But Sonia Sotomayor, a judge, objected to the comparison. Administrators at colleges, according to her, take into account a minority student’s background, including if they experienced discrimination in school and overcame it or whether their family had limited financial resources. She explained that the schools were trying to treat all the pupils equally from the beginning by considering all the variables.

The court’s first Black female justice, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, expressed concern that it could “potentially cause more of an equal-protection problem than it’s solving” if universities “can take into account and value all of the other background and personal characteristics of other applicants, but they can’t value race.”

She contrasted it to a Black student who would like to provide a different reason for attending and presented the hypothetical of a student who could write an essay about why it was vital to be the fifth generation of his family to attend UNC: My family has lived in this region for many generations, going back to the time before the Civil War, but because they were enslaved, they were unable to attend this illustrious institution.

(Jackson withdrew from the Harvard lawsuit since one of her children was a student there, and she served on the board of her alma school.) When, if ever, the race will no longer be a factor in college admissions was a topic that several conservative justices brought up time and time again. The judges cited the 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger majority opinion, in which Justice Sandra Day O’Connor stated that racial advantages would likely not be required in 25 years.

What if recruiting a diverse student body is still challenging after 25 years? Amy Coney Barrett, a judge, questioned Park. So, in 2040, what will you be saying when you are up here? Do you still support it as if it were unending? Is it going to continue?

The Grutter ruling, according to Park, calls for “aggressive and enthusiastic adoption of race-neutral alternatives,” which university administrators claim hasn’t been enough to create diversity on campus thus far. It’s not a switch; it’s a dial.

We have significantly turned it down, as evidenced by the advancements we’ve achieved since Grutter demonstrated it at the University of North Carolina. Roberts was not persuaded. He remarked, “I don’t understand how you can argue that the programme will ever finish.

The justices occasionally appeared to be speaking more to one another than to the attorneys they were interrogating. When asking Cameron T. Norris, the attorney is defending the contestants to Harvard’s policy, whether a judge who wants a diverse group of clerks can consider race when making recruiting decisions, Justice Elena Kagan may have had her seatmate, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, in mind.

Kavanaugh has taken delight in making such hires, yet according to his clerks, only three of the 20 people he has hired for the Supreme Court are White men. She questioned, “Can you become race-conscious when race-neutral means can’t get you there, don’t get you there, when you’ve tried and tried, and they still won’t get you there?

Justice Kagan, I don’t think so,” Norris responded. While the UNC case included the Supreme Court debating broad issues, the Harvard case focused primarily on claims of discrimination against Asian Americans.

The challengers cited Alito’s use of admissions statistics as evidence that Asian Americans are disproportionately mistreated when Harvard evaluates them on personal character attributes like integrity, courage, kindness, and empathy. According to Alito, Asian student candidates receive the lowest individual scores of any other ethnicity. “What explains that?”

Waxman said that the so-called personal ratings are not a significant component of the process and attempted to downplay any “slight numerical differential” that the data revealed. It has no statistically significant impact, according to Waxman. “Why do it if it doesn’t matter?” Alito retaliated.

Waxman, Prelogar, and Ryan reminded the court that district judges had conducted thorough investigations into both cases and had found no evidence of discrimination. However, Prelogar and Waxman encouraged the court to remand the possibilities for further consideration rather than overturning the precedent after the tough questioning.

The equal protection provision of the 14th Amendment and the need for colourblindness in the Constitution were other topics of discussion among the justices. Challengers assert that the equal protection clause prohibits government-run colleges like UNC from considering race when making admissions choices.

Harvard must abide by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 but is not bound by that constitutional provision. This law forbids racial discrimination in “any programme or activity receiving Federal financial assistance,” including exclusion or denial of benefits.

Because it receives millions in government subsidies and enrols students who pay in part with federal financial aid, Harvard, a private college, is subject to Title VI. The Constitution and Title VI apply to UNC, a public institution of higher learning.