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Harvard tells Supreme Court to uphold race as admissions factor

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Harvard University asked the Supreme Court this week not to abandon its decades of precedent and uphold affirmative action as part of the elite college’s admissions process.

In its 64-page brief filed Monday with the justices, the Ivy League school argued three cases dating back to 1978 suggest the high court has consistently found that diversity is “essential to the quality of higher education.”

It also noted that the history of the Fourteenth Amendment doesn’t suggest colleges should exclude race as a factor when assembling an incoming class.

“Our Constitution promises ‘equal protection of the laws,’” lawyers for Harvard wrote. “It does not require us to disregard the commonsense reality that race is one among many things that shape life experiences in meaningful ways.”

The university points to the 1978 case of Regents of University of California v Bakke, where the high court ruled that racial quotas were unlawful, but consideration of race as one part of an admissions factor is constitutional.

Subsequently, the Supreme Court also decided Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003 and Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin in 2016, reaffirming that affirmative action policies do not run afoul of the Constitution.

Students for Fair Admissions, which challenged the school’s use of race, has argued the university is discriminating against Asian Americans through its use of race when evaluating student applications.

“Harvard’s mistreatment of Asian-American applicants is appalling. Harvard penalizes them because, according to its admissions office, they lack leadership and confidence and are less likable and kind,” the group wrote in its court filing.

The case is set to be argued during the court‘s next term, which begins in October, though a date for oral arguments has not yet been scheduled.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson said during her confirmation hearing that she planned to recuse herself from the case since she sat on Harvard’s Board of Overseers.

Originally the high court planned to hear the legal battle alongside another affirmative action dispute involving the University of North Carolina, but in a recent order, the justices have decided to hear them separately, allowing Justice Jackson to weigh in on the UNC dispute, according to reports.

The cases are Students for Fair Admissions v President and Fellows at Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina.



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