On Friday, Students For Fair Admissions (SFFA) and UNC both filed for summary judgement in a case that accuses the school’s admissions practices of violating of the 14th Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
The facts of the affirmative action debate in the United States can be summed up quite simply: Universities may consider an applicant’s race. Universities must show that they are considering an applicant’s race to achieve the educational benefits of diversity. Universities must be very constrained in how they go about doing this — they must evaluate students as individuals, they must consider race-neutral alternatives and, most importantly, they must not use race as a dominant factor in admissions decisions.
We know that race must not be a determining factor in admissions, but exhibits presented in the plaintiff’s summary judgement brief are particularly damning. A UNC admissions officer noted, “If it's brown and above a 1300 [SAT] put them in for [the] merit/Excel [scholarship].”
SFFA contends that UNC only sends promotional materials to white and Asian students who score above a 29 on the ACT while underrepresented minorities could score as low as 26 to be recruited. There is a vast discrepancy with the claims from expert witnesses in the defendant’s summary judgement brief about how many underrepresented minority students are admitted primarily on the basis of their race. Based on this discrepancy alone, I find it hard to imagine either party will be granted summary judgement as a matter of law.
In Grutter v. Bollinger, the Supreme Court made clear that “race-based action necessary to further a compelling governmental interest does not violate the Equal Protection Clause so long as it is narrowly tailored to further that interest.” The phrase “narrowly tailored” has come to be defined by a number of cases outlining the methods which are unacceptable for evaluating students by their race.