Litigating Affirmative Action: The Road To SCOTUS
Next year, the Supreme Court will consider a pair of cases that put race-based “affirmative action” in higher education in the crosshairs. One case involves Harvard University, which is a private institution but is subject to federal statutory laws prohibiting race discrimination under Title VI. The other involves the University of North Carolina, a public institution subject to constitutional limits under the Fourteenth Amendment.
In Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, in 1978, the Supreme Court turned back a constitutional challenge to a public university’s use of race in admissions, albeit with no majority rationale. In 2003, in Grutter v. Bollinger, a narrow majority upheld race-conscious admissions practices if “narrowly tailored” to further student-body diversity. The Court noted, however, that public universities’ use of affirmative-action admissions policies “must be limited in time.”
The Harvard and UNC cases—brought by Students for Fair Admissions, headed by panelist Edward Blum—focus on the universities’ discrimination against Asian Americans. Also joining us will be Wai Wah Chin, founding president of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Greater New York.