Supreme Court finds Harvard, UNC’s admissions policy violate the 14th Amendment

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the admissions policies of Harvard and the University of North Carolina violate the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

Supreme Court’s decision: The court’s decision reverses decades of precedent and could potentially hinder educational institutions’ abilities to consider race among several factors in admissions decisions.
* This decision concerns affirmative action programs at the University of North Carolina and Harvard University.
* Prior to the 1950s, the University of North Carolina did not admit Black students, and Harvard’s admissions policy served as a model for the court’s 1978 decision permitting colleges to consider race as one of many factors.

Implications of the cases: These two cases intersect because they pose questions about the scope of the 14th Amendment and federal anti-discrimination laws.
* For UNC, as a state school, the case raises the question of whether its affirmative action program infringes upon the equal protection guarantee of the 14th Amendment.
* Even though Harvard is a private institution, federal anti-discrimination laws still apply because the university receives federal funding for numerous programs.

Deep connections: The Harvard case struck a chord with the Justices, five of whom have strong ties to the institution.
* Justice Jackson was recused from the case due to her past role on the Harvard Board of Overseers.
* Four other Justices, including the Chief Justice, either attended Harvard College, Harvard Law School, or both, and Justice Kagan was dean of the law school for six years.

Harvard precedent: The case’s resonance is further amplified due to Harvard’s past history of imposing Jewish quotas in the 1920s to ’40s.
* This history has led the plaintiff’s lawyers to argue that Asians are now being treated similarly to Jews.
* Harvard held a trial that lasted more than two weeks and involved extensive document production and examination of hundreds of thousands of emails.
* However, both the district court judge and the court of appeals found “no evidence” of discrimination against Asian Americans, a fact emphasized by Harvard’s lawyer, Seth Waxman.

View original article on NPR

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