The Supreme Court issues separate rulings on affirmative action in college admissions

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Friday took a procedural step that will allow the court’s first black woman to compete in a high-stakes challenge against affirmative action in college admissions.

The court agreed in January to take up the matter, allowing two cases — one involving Harvard, a private university, and the other involving the University of North Carolina, a public institution. The two cases were combined, which means that they should be negotiated and decided together.

During her confirmation hearing, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson said she would not participate in consideration of the affirmative action issue because she was a member of a panel that advised Harvard on policy matters. Participation in the case would pose a potential conflict of interest, she said.

Students walk through Harvard Yard on the Harvard University campus on April 27, 2022 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Students walk through Harvard Yard on the Harvard University campus on April 27, 2022 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.Charles Krupa / AP file

But in a brief order Friday, the court said the two cases will no longer be combined. Now that they’re separated, she’s able to attend the University of North Carolina case.

The court said Judge Jackson did not participate in considering Friday’s order.

The January court’s decision to take up the cases posed the most serious threat in decades to the use of affirmative action by the nation’s public and private colleges and universities.

The court has repeatedly upheld affirmative action in the past. But two of the judges pivotal to those decisions have left – Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Their successors, Trump-appointed Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, are more conservative and believe the practice is less constitutional.

People clear away belongings on the University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill, NC on March 18, 2020.
People clear away belongings on the University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill, NC on March 18, 2020.Gerry Broome / AP file

The challenges heard in the fall were brought forward by groups backed by longtime Affirmative Action opponent Edward Blum of Maine. He sued Harvard and UNC in federal court, alleging that their undergraduate admissions systems were discriminatory—in Harvard against Asian-American students and in North Carolina against both Asian-American and white students.

The groups lost in lower courts, which ruled that a school’s limited consideration of race was a legitimate attempt to reach a more diverse student body.

The Supreme Court has long banned racial quotas in admissions. But it has allowed schools to consider a student’s race as an “advantage” among many other qualities, provided the admissions process takes into account applicants’ overall qualifications and does not use race more than necessary to achieve a degree of diversity.

The Supreme Court will hear the cases in its next term, which begins in October.

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/supreme-court/supreme-court-issue-separate-rulings-affirmative-action-college-admiss-rcna39660 The Supreme Court issues separate rulings on affirmative action in college admissions

Fry Electronics Team

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