Dec 9, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden administration urges SCOTUS to reject Harvard affirmative action case

Photo of a Harvard building
A Harvard University building in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photo: Scott Eisen via Getty Images

The Biden administration on Wednesday urged the Supreme Court to reject a challenge to Harvard's affirmative action policy.

Why it matters: The challenger, Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), is appealing a lower court decision to uphold the policy, which it claims violates civil rights law by discriminating against Asian Americans and showing preference to Black and Hispanic applicants.

  • The conservative high court's ruling on the case could have a long-standing impact on the future of affirmative action in the U.S.

What they're saying: "The court of appeals correctly recognized that Harvard’s admissions policy is subject to 'strict scrutiny,' under which its 'use of race must further a compelling interest and be narrowly tailored to do so,'" Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar said in the court filing.

  • SFFA has not proven the "special justification" needed to overturn precedents on affirmative action, which "correctly recognize that securing the educational benefits that flow from such diversity is a sufficiently compelling interest to justify race-conscious measures," Prelogar added.
  • The filing also pointed out that the allegation of discrimination against Asians is "factually and legally distinct from petitioner’s challenge to Harvard’s acknowledged use of race as a plus factor."

Worth noting: SFFA has asked the Supreme Court to hear a separate affirmative action case against the University of North Carolina, which is a public institution, per Reuters.

The big picture: Harvard has maintained that it does not dock Asians and only considers race when deciding between highly competitive applicants.

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