U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in affirmative action cases

In the past, the Supreme Court ruled race could be considered in admissions, but that doesn't...
In the past, the Supreme Court ruled race could be considered in admissions, but that doesn't mean it will this time.(WEAU)
Published: Oct. 31, 2022 at 7:34 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments in two cases that could end the ability for universities to consider race when making decisions on admissions.

The two cases challenge a state school, the University of North Carolina, and a private school, Harvard University.

“The case out of Harvard, since Harvard is a private university, is a challenge to whether or not Harvard’s policy violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Dr. Eric Kasper, UW-Eau Claire Political Science Professor said. “It’s a federal statute which prohibits racial discrimination and applied to Harvard University because they accept federal funding.”

The other case looks at the University of North Carolina.

“The case deals directly with a federal constitutional issue, which is whether or not that consideration of race in admissions violates the 14th Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause,” Kasper said.

Kasper said each argument asks the reasoning for considering race.

“The arguments about that have kind of revolved around the following questions, which is, first of all, is there a compelling interest that the university has to consider race in admissions,” Kasper said. “The other piece of that analysis then is if the considerations here relate to academic freedom, is there the least restrictive means in terms of what they’re doing by considering race?”

In the past, the Supreme Court ruled race could be considered in admissions, but that doesn’t mean that is how it will rule this time.

“If the court did go in a different direction, they could apply a different standard that then university admissions would have to potentially reevaluate how they go about that process of examining student applications,” Kasper said. “Or, the Supreme Court could bar the use of race in admissions altogether.”

The decision of the University Of North Carolina case could affect every state-run university.

“Whatever the Supreme Court decides in the University of North Carolina case would have to be followed in terms of the UW System,” Kasper said.

It is possible the court could rule differently on the two cases as they have different legal arguments. The decisions in the cases are expected sometime between March and June of next year, before the end of the court’s term.