Biden’s DOJ Urges Top Court to Spurn Harvard Admissions Case
(Bloomberg) -- The Biden administration urged the U.S. Supreme Court to reject a challenge to Harvard College’s use of race in admissions and leave in place affirmation action programs at selective universities around the country.
In a court filing Wednesday, Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar said a federal appeals court was right to uphold Harvard’s policy as a way to diversify its student body. An appeal by the interest group Students for Fair Admissions says Harvard violated federal civil rights law by intentionally discriminating against Asian-American applicants.
The challengers are asking the court to overrule the 2003 decision that reaffirmed the right of universities to consider race as one of many admissions factors. The practice is common at selective universities, though nine states including California and Florida have laws banning the practice at public universities.
Prelogar said the court’s affirmative action precedents “correctly recognize that securing the educational benefits that flow from such diversity is a sufficiently compelling interest to justify race-conscious measures.”
She argued that the challengers hadn’t shown the kind of “special justification” needed to overturn a precedent and said doing so would “profoundly unsettle expectations” of universities that rely on affirmative action programs.
The challengers, Students for Fair Admissions, contend that Harvard penalizes Asian Americans during the admissions process, assigning them lower ratings on leadership and likability, while automatically giving preferences to Black and Hispanic applicants.
“The solicitor general’s brief regrettably advocates for the continuation of racial classifications and preferences in college admissions -- a position that nearly three out of four Americans of all races oppose,” said Edward Blum, a longtime racial-preferences opponent who runs Students for Fair Admissions, pointing to a 2019 Pew Research Center poll.
Harvard says it considers the race only of highly competitive candidates for admission and doesn’t penalize Asian-American applicants.
Students for Fair Admissions is separately asking the Supreme Court to hear a challenge to the admissions policy at the University of North Carolina. Because that case involves a public institution, it raises somewhat different legal issues.
The Harvard case is Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, 20-1199.
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