U.S. Supreme Court to hear challenge to race-conscious college admissions

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a bid to bar Harvard University and the University of North Carolina from considering race in undergraduate admissions in a case that puts jeopardize the affirmative action policies widely used to increase the number of black and Hispanic students on US campuses.

The judges agreed to hear appeals from a group called Students for Fair Admissions, founded by anti-affirmative action activist Edward Blum, of lower court rulings that upheld programs used by the two prestigious universities to foster a population diverse student. The cases give the court, with its 6-3 conservative majority, a chance to end such policies.

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The lawsuits accused the universities of discriminating against applicants on the basis of race in violation of federal law or the US Constitution. Blum’s group alleged in the Harvard case that the school discriminated against Asian American applicants. In the UNC case, Blum’s group alleged that the university’s policy discriminates against white and Asian American applicants.

Universities have said they only use race as one factor in a host of individualized assessments for admission without quotas, and that limiting consideration of race will lead to a significant drop in student numbers black, Hispanic, and other underrepresented students on campus.

The Supreme Court has a 6-3 conservative majority. American conservatives have long opposed affirmative action programs used in areas such as student hiring and admissions to address past discrimination in the regard to minorities.

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The use of affirmative action has withstood Supreme Court scrutiny for decades, including in a 2016 decision https://www.Reuters.com/article/usa-court-affirmativeaction-idINKCN0ZA08C involving a Blum-backed white student, who challenged a University of Texas policy, though judges restricted his application. The eventual ruling in the new challenge could dilute or potentially eliminate college affirmative action programs.

Blum’s group sued Harvard in 2014, accusing it of violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in connection with any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. Harvard is a private university founded in 1636 and located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It receives federal funds.

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The group also sued UNC in 2014, accusing the university of impermissibly using race as a primary admissions factor, in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment Act’s Equal Protection Guarantee. . UNC, located in Chapel Hill and chartered in 1789, is North Carolina’s flagship public university.

The Supreme Court first upheld affirmative action in college admissions in a landmark 1978 decision in a case titled Regents of the University of California v. Bakke who concluded that race could be considered a factor but racial quotas could not be used.

Blum’s group asked the Supreme Court to overturn a 2003 Supreme Court decision in a case called Grutter v. Bollinger involving the University of Michigan Law School which concluded that colleges may consider race as a factor in the admissions process due to the compelling interest in creating a diverse student body.

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Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in that ruling that she expects “the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary” by 2028.

President Joe Biden’s administration has backed Harvard, telling judges in a court filing not to hear the case. The court’s precedents “correctly acknowledge” that the educational benefits that result from diversity justify race-sensitive measures.

Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, a Republican, had backed Blum’s lawsuit against Harvard.

Students for Fair Admissions said Harvard policies limit Asian Americans to 20% of incoming undergraduate classes and leave them less likely to be admitted than white, black and Hispanic applicants with comparable qualifications . He said in court documents that Harvard “automatically gives racial preferences to African Americans and Hispanics.” Harvard said the challengers misrepresent its policies.

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The Supreme Court’s conservative majority has grown since ruling 5-4 in favor of the University of Texas in 2016, with now-retired conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy joining four liberal justices. The addition of three judges appointed by former Republican President Donald Trump moved the court to the right.

Led by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court has been hostile to further efforts to address past racial discrimination. In 2013 he struck down https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-court-voting/supreme-court-guts-key-part-of-landmark-voting-rights-act-idUSBRE95O0TU20130625 a key Voting Rights Act, enacted in 1965 to ensure that minorities could vote. In 2020, the court weakened another key part of this law.

The case is scheduled to be heard during the court’s 2022 term, which begins in October and ends in June 2023.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York and Lawrence Hurley in Washington; Additional reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Will Dunham)

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