On Monday, the Supreme Court announced it will hear two separate challenges to the use of Affirmative Action in college admissions – including in the Ivy Leagues.

The case could potentially have far-reaching effects on race-based policies.

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Also making any possible rulings interesting is that the cases involve different categories of schools. One of the challenges involves Harvard, a private institution, the other, the University of North Carolina which is a state school.

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The Nature Of The Complaints

The challenges specifically focus on the admissions processes of Harvard and UNC being discriminatory against prospective Asian-American students.

The lawsuits also argue that the admissions policies of both schools amount to “racial balancing” and thus discriminate against Asian-Americans, who may have higher scores and yet be rejected.

Lower courts have in the past sided with both Harvard and UNC, saying that race is only one of many factors in the admissions process and “is a necessary part of fostering student-body diversity.”

Both schools have denied any intended discrimination in their admissions processes.

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Not Anything New

Discrimination – intended or not – of Asian-American students is not new and has been studied for a while. A group called Asian American Coalition for Education has followed such studies for years.

As far back as 2007, author Daniel Golden in his book, “The Prices of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way Into Elite Colleges- and Who Gets Left Outside,” described a “triple standard” at Harvard, where the highest standards were for Asian-Americans.

Another study from 2009 showed that Asian-American students had to score 140 points higher than whites, 270 points higher than Hispanics, and 450 points higher than black students but still had the lowest acceptance rate of any SAT score bracket.

In 2014, Richard Sander in his book, “Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended To Help and Why Universities Won’t Admit It,” said that at Harvard, Yale, and Cornell, “No other racial or ethnic group is as underrepresented relative to its application numbers as are Asian- Americans.” 

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Defending Affirmative Action

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The Biden administration, in an attempt to uphold affirmative action policies, encouraged the Supreme Court to reject the challenge to the Harvard admissions policy last month.

The administration argued that Students For Fair Admissions had not proven what it called “special justifications” to overturn any affirmative action policies, stating that race-based admissions policies, “correctly recognize that securing the educational benefits that flow from such diversity is a sufficiently compelling interest to justify race-conscious measures.”