Students for Fair Admissions (SFA) sued Harvard University and the University of North Carolina for discriminating against Asian-American and white students seeking admission by requiring higher grades and test scores for Asian-American and white applicants than other racial groups. These policies of racial preferences violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Litigation is ongoing in the trial court as SFA pursues discovery to unmask the secretive admissions processes.
Harvard and UNC-Chapel Hill consider an applicant’s race and ethnicity when determining whether to admit student applicants. They grant preferential treatment to applicants from some racial groups, while restricting admission to others. Specifically, Asian-American and white applicants are required to have significantly higher grade point averages and SAT scores to gain admission that applicants who identify as Hispanic, African-American or Native American. For example, Asian-American students admitted to UNC-Chapel Hill in 2012 had SAT scores 200 points higher than admitted African-American applicants. Meanwhile, Harvard denied admission to an SFA member who graduated first in his class of 460 at a high school ranked in the top 5% of all schools nationwide, achieved a perfect score on three sets of standardized tests, and participated in a variety of extracurricular activities.
The universities defend their policies as necessary to attain the educational benefits of “diversity,” a recognized defense announced by the Supreme Court decision in Grutter v. Bollinger. As amicus curiae, PLF plans to help frame the issues in such a way as to help these cases move to the Supreme Court in a position for that court to overrule Grutter and hold that diversity is not a sufficiently compelling interest to justify discrimination against individuals on the basis of race.
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