The End of Affirmative Action?

When the Supreme Court upheld the use of racial preferences in college admissions in 2003, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who wrote the majority opinion, added a trenchant prediction: “We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.”

Is it possible the end of affirmative action could arrive even sooner? Now that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear two cases challenging racial preferences in college admissions, it could be. Those of us who have been fighting to end this form of government-sanctioned discrimination should be encouraged by the court’s action.

On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina. The plaintiff argues that racial preferences in college admissions should be just as illegal as racial preferences elsewhere. Such preferences cannot be squared with the principle of equality before the law—embodied in both the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Harvard case is particularly instructive for understanding why the court should end the use of racial preferences in college admissions. One of the most prestigious and selective universities in the nation, Harvard has long argued that racial preferences are necessary to create a diverse student body, and that such diversity is essential to creating a welcoming and inclusive climate on campus for students from various backgrounds.

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