Is this the End of Affirmative Action?

By Madeline Olds, Staff Writer

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This summer, after a controversial term, the United States Supreme Court decided it will hear two cases concerning arguments surrounding the constitutionality of affirmative action.[1] Affirmative action is defined as “a set of procedures designed to; eliminate unlawful discrimination among applicants, remedy the results of such prior discrimination, and prevent such discrimination in the future.”[2] The issue of affirmative action and the fairness of its use in higher education has been a highly discussed topic amongst politicians, legal scholars, and citizens. However, since the Supreme Court’s decision in Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003, the Court has not touched the issue of affirmative action.[3] Many are questioning how a conservative leaning Court will rule on affirmative action, especially since it is Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s first term. 

The United States Supreme Court is hearing arguments on two cases related to affirmative action: Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina.[4] Students for Fair Admissions is a non-profit organization that believes “racial classifications and preferences in college admissions are unfair, unnecessary, and unconstitutional.”[5]

The argument in the case against Harvard is whether Grutter v Bollinger, a case holding that a student admissions process that favors underrepresented minority groups does not violate the Fourteenth Amendment as long as it takes into account other factors that are evaluated on an individual basis for every applicant should be overruled and “whether Harvard College is violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by penalizing Asian American applicants, engaging in racial balancing, overemphasizing race and rejecting workable race-neutral alternatives.”[6]

Similarly, the issues presented in the case against the University of North Carolina are “whether the Supreme Court should overrule Grutter v. Bollinger and hold that institutions of higher education cannot use race as a factor in admissions and “whether a university can reject a race-neutral alternative because it would change the composition of the student body, without proving that the alternative would cause a dramatic sacrifice in academic quality or the educational benefits of overall student-body diversity.”[7]

Each case will have an hour allotted by the Court to argue the cases separately.[8] According to what she announced at her nomination hearing, Justice Jackson will not be participating in the Harvard case, since she recently completed a six-year term on the Harvard Board of Overseers this past spring.[9] The arguments will be held on October 31, 2022.[10]

These two cases have made history by having a record number of amicus briefs filed by corporations and universities.[11]According to polls, citizens of the United Sates are generally for affirmative action, with 61% polling in favor and 3% polling opposed in 2018.[12] With such an important decision, the Supreme Court will have many opposing sides to consider. In making its decision, the Court must consider the benefits of diverse educational and work environments, since any change to affirmative action will not only affect higher education but the corporate world as well.  










[10] Id.



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