Federal judge says UNC can continue race-based admission policy

by mcardinal

Chris Lange, FISM News



A federal judge has ruled that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill did not discriminate against white and Asian applicants in its affirmative-action-based admissions policies. 

According to Reuters, U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs issued the ruling Monday in a lawsuit filed by Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA). In its complaint, SFFA argues that the public university violated the U.S. Constitution and Civil Rights Act by basing undergraduate admissions on race and ethnicity, favoring blacks and Hispanics over white and Asian American applicants.

The plaintiffs further assert that UNC’s undergraduate admissions policy goes beyond generally considering “race as a ‘plus’ factor’ in admissions decisions,” and, instead, overtly “uses race as a factor in admissions.”

The complaint reads, in part, “Defendants have employed and are employing racially and ethnically discriminatory policies and procedures in administering the undergraduate admissions program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill… in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.” SFFC members aver that the university’s admissions policies “have injured and continue to injure Plaintiff’s members by intentionally and unconstitutionally discriminating against them on the basis of their race and ethnicity..

In a 161-page ruling, Judge Biggs states that UNC’s race-based admissions decisions are appropriate and permissible under the Constitution and, moreover, support a “compelling and substantial interest in pursuing and attaining the educational benefits of diversity.” She further says failure to use such policies “misses important context to include obscuring racial barriers and obstacles that have been faced, overcome and are yet to be overcome.”

SFFA founder Edward Blum has vowed to file an appeal to the federal appeals court and possibly the U.S. Supreme Court, saying the documents and data presented to the court expose UNC’s “systematic discrimination against non-minority applicants.”

UNC spokesperson Beth Keith, on the other hand, said the ruling “makes clear [that] the university’s holistic admissions approach is lawful.”

Conservative-led Students for Fair Admissions gained national attention in the affirmative action debate when it filed a similar lawsuit against Harvard University in 2014, accusing the Ivy League school of unlawful “racial balancing.” A federal appeals court ruled that Harvard’s admission policies did not violate the law. SFFA has appealed the Harvard decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Ed Whelen, Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and Antonin Scalia Chair in Constitutional Studies, posted a graph of Harvard’s admission data in February which shows marked contrasts in admission rates for African-Americans (56.1%) whites (15.3%) and Asians (12.7), tweeting “African American in 4th-lowest decile has higher chance of admission than Asian American in top decile. Yes, Harvard discriminates on [the]  basis of race. Blatantly.”