Many observers are waiting for the United States Supreme Court to decide whether to delve again into college admissions with a pending case out of Harvard University in which Asian and white students claim discrimination. We have been following that case for a couple years. However, there is a new ruling out of North Carolina that could present another opportunity for the Court to revisit the issue. Judge Loretta C. Biggs of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina just ruled that UNC can use race criteria to guarantee a “critical mass” of minority students in its classes. Both cases could offer the Court an opportunity to clarify its conflicted affirmative action rulings on college admissions.
In her decision, Judge Biggs rejected the claim of Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) that UNC engaged in unconstitutional discrimination under its 2005 diversity plan for “critical masses of underrepresented populations.” Biggs said that it was not necessary for UNC to define the term critical mass beyond the desire for the educational benefits of a diverse student body. It was not a quota for how many students of particular races should be admitted and “race is not a defining feature.”
Judge Biggs further found that UNC “has engaged in ongoing, serious, good faith considerations of workable race neutral alternatives in an effort to find options to its race conscious process in admissions.”
The case will now go to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
The case is Students for Fair Admission v. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, No. 14-954 (M.D.N.C.).
Here is the opinion: SFFA v. UNC