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The U.S. Supreme Court stunned some court watchers last week with a decision concerning admission standards to one of the nation’s most prestigious military academies.
As reported by the Washington Examiner, justices “rejected a conservative student group’s efforts to force the U.S Military Academy at West Point to cease its race-based admissions policies, saying that the case is still ‘underdeveloped’ in lower court proceedings.”
The nation’s highest court wrote in an order: “The application for writ of injunction pending appeal presented to Justice Sotomayor and by her referred to the Court is denied. The record before this Court is underdeveloped, and this order should not be construed as expressing any view on the merits of the constitutional question.”
The petition to prohibit West Point from considering race in student applications was filed by Students For Fair Admissions, building on their previous 6-3 victory before the justices in a separate case last year. In that case, the Supreme Court concluded that affirmative action was not consistent with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, the Examiner reported.
The Biden administration responded to the request from SFFA, urging the Supreme Court not to halt affirmative action policies at the school.
“For more than forty years, our Nation’s military leaders have determined that a diverse Army officer corps is a national-security imperative and that achieving that diversity requires limited consideration of race in selecting those who join the Army as cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point,” U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote on behalf of the Justice Department.
SFFA, led by conservative legal strategist Edward Blum, petitioned the justices to prohibit West Point from factoring race into its admissions process. The organization argued that military academies should uphold the same standard set by the Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision against race-based practices at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina.
The request was made as the application deadline for West Point’s class of 2028 approached on January 31. SFFA argued that the justices should resolve the dispute before that deadline. The decision announced last week implies that the school will be allowed to consider race to some extent for the upcoming class.
Axios reported in June, following the high court’s overturning of affirmative action: “The ruling will force colleges to reimagine long-standing hallmarks of the admissions process and likely jeopardize the representation of Black and Latino students on campuses nationwide. The high court sided with the conservative nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions, which argued that the universities’ admissions processes discriminate against white and Asian American applicants.”
“The court has historically backed affirmative action programs at colleges, including most recently in 2016, when the Supreme Court rejected a challenge to a race-conscious admissions program at the University of Texas-Austin. Some colleges have already had to scrap their affirmative action programs, including the University of Michigan, where Black undergraduate enrollment dropped precipitously after a state ban,” Axios added.
Both UNC and Harvard were sued over allegations of discrimination against Asian and white Americans, with some arguing their civil rights were violated in the admissions process.
Justice Clarence Thomas previously expressed skepticism about affirmative action in university admissions and questioned whether racial diversity has an impact on educational outcomes.
“Students for Fair Admissions, a legal advocacy group which opposes providing applicants an advantage because of their racial identity, 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 test scores to gain admission to elite schools,” the Daily Wire reported.
North Carolina State Solicitor General Ryan Park attempted to defend the “educational benefits of diversity” several times, to which Thomas repeatedly challenged him to provide “a specific definition” in the context of the University of North Carolina.