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Supreme Court Rejects Temporary Ban on West Point Considering Race in Admissions
Supreme Court Allows West Point to Continue Using Race in Admissions
In a decision made on Friday, the Supreme Court permitted the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to keep using race as a factor in its admissions process. This comes as a challenge to that process is still being litigated.
The high court, in an order written by an unnamed author, rejected a plea by Students for Fair Admissions, an anti-affirmative action group, to intervene right away due to the academy’s upcoming application deadline for the next entering class on January 31.
Harvard College and the University of North Carolina have previously faced legal challenges from Students for Fair Admissions regarding their affirmative action admissions policies. These challenges resulted in those policies being struck down by a 6-3 ruling last year. However, Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged in a footnote that the ruling did not cover “the potentially distinct interests” of military academies and their race-based admissions programs.
According to the Justice Department, having a diverse officer corps has long been seen as crucial for the effectiveness of the military. This was stated in a filing made by the department to the Supreme Court.
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The government argued that West Point’s admissions system should not be invalidated or temporarily disrupted in the middle of an admissions cycle.
On January 29, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York agreed with the decision of a lower court that no emergency action needs to be taken.
Students for Fair Admissions, an organization founded by conservative legal strategist Edward Blum, contends that the policy employed by West Point violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. The group is bringing this lawsuit on behalf of a high school senior applying to West Point for the first time and a college freshman applying for the second time, both of whom are white.
The group alleges that West Point’s practices are even more problematic than those of Harvard. This is because the academy gives preference to only three racial groups: Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans.
According to documents filed by Students for Fair Admissions, around 10% of the most recent class accepted at West Point were Black, which falls below the academy’s target of 14%. However, the academy came close to reaching its goal of 11% for Hispanic students.
Students for Fair Admissions has also brought a similar lawsuit against the U.S. Naval Academy. The trial for that case is scheduled to commence in September.
In its order on Friday, the Supreme Court clarified that its denial of the request made by Students for Fair Admissions to stop West Point from considering race in its admissions should not be seen as an indication of its stance on the constitutional question at hand.
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