Students For Fair Admissions filed a federal lawsuit against UNC in 2014 for placing too much significance on race and ethnicity during the application process — a process the group argues is unfair toward white students and students of Asian descent. In summary judgment, both sides submit a brief detailing their arguments to the judge, who then decides whether to proceed with or without a trial.
The SFFA is not looking for money, it only wants UNC to stop any consideration of race during the application process, overturning U.S. Supreme Court precedent. The group is also suing Harvard University for similar issues.
UNC argues in its brief that its admissions approach is constitutional because it has compelling interest in racial consideration in the admissions process, and their practice is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest. These standards were upheld in the 2016 landmark Fisher v. University of Texas case, in which the Supreme Court ruled in favor of UT’s use of race in admissions.
But SFFA disagrees. The group claims UNC considers race as a dominant factor and has not considered enough “race-neutral” alternatives.
In the summary judgement filing, UNC argues the Court should reject SFFA’s claims because racial diversity in schools enhances learning for everyone enrolled — thus maintaining the University’s educational mission and serving a compelling interest. UNC also states race does not play a dominant role in its admissions data. Though it may come into play, UNC maintains that it evaluates students individually.
UNC also claims that it has considered many race-neutral alternatives, despite what SFFA thinks. In its brief, UNC outlines its “considerable recruitment efforts to encourage talented and diverse students” across the state and socioeconomic lines, through in-person outreach and mail. Their financial aid and C-STEP programs also ensure race-neutral admissions, the University states.
In an email to the campus community on Friday, Chancellor Carol Folt and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bob Blouin addressed the lawsuit and assured the students about their placement at UNC.
“We are proud of the contributions our students make in our community, and we want each of you to know that you rightfully earned your place here,” the statement said. “We are grateful you chose to attend Carolina and look forward to all you will accomplish in the future.”
The judge will review the summary judgment briefs from both sides and decide whether to rule in favor of either the University or the SFFA without a trial, or move to a trial.
In fall 2014, UNC’s incoming first-year class was 73 percent Caucasian/white students and 15 percent Asian/Asian-American students. Meanwhile, Black/African-American students made up just 11 percent of the incoming class, with Hispanic, Native-American and Pacific-Islander making up an even smaller proportion.
The trend continued in fall 2018, whose incoming class consisted of 66 percent Caucasian/white students and 18 percent Asian/Asian-American students. Black/African-American students again made up 11 percent of the class, with Hispanic, Native-American and Pacific-Islander students again making up a smaller amount.
UNC does not require applicants to report their race/ethnicity.
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