What to expect as the Supreme Court deals with affirmative action cases

In 2003 and again in 2016, the court upheld the limited use of race in admissions and said the educational benefits of a diverse student body justified some intrusion into the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee. , which generally prohibits the government from making decisions based on race. .

But the composition of the court shifted to the right, with three Trump nominees solidifying a 6-3 conservative majority. There is disagreement among the justices over whether the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause means that the Constitution must be color blind.

Challengers say that under the Equal Protection Clause, government-run universities like UNC cannot use race as a factor in admissions decisions. Judges, who often prefer to rule narrowly, could avoid the larger constitutional question and instead find that Harvard and UNC violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law prohibits racial discrimination , the exclusion or denial of benefits under “any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

Harvard, a private institution, is subject to Title VI because it receives millions in federal grants and enrolls students who pay in part with federal financial aid. UNC, a public university, is covered by both the Constitution and Title VI, which incorporates equal standards of protection after Title VI.

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