Sep 19, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Anti-affirmative action group sues West Point over race-conscious admissions

Graduates look at the stage at a commencement ceremony at the military academy. Dozens of people are in the foreground with a stage in the background.

Graduates receive their diplomas during the 2022 commencement ceremony at West Point Military Academy in May 2022 in West Point, New York. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

The group whose lawsuit contributed to the Supreme Court ending affirmative action sued the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on Tuesday for race-conscious admissions.

Why it matters: The Supreme Court decision allowed an exception for military academies to continue considering race as part of admissions processes.

The latest: Students for Fair Admissions, a conservative nonprofit, sued the highly selective school on the basis that military academies should also be barred from race-conscious admissions processes.

  • The organization challenges what it calls West Point's "racial-balancing goals" in its complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Details: West Point's admission process involves two stages, the second of which includes consideration of students' race, according to the complaint.

  • "West Point sets benchmarks for the percentage of each class that should be filled by 'African Americans,' 'Hispanics,' and 'Asians,' and it meticulously tracks its compliance with those figures," the complaint said.
  • "These racial benchmarks vary by year, based on the ever-shifting demographics of the enlisted ranks."
  • The organization is calling to prohibit the military academy from considering or knowing applicants' race when making admissions decisions.

Catch up quick: The Supreme Court ruled in June that colleges can't explicitly consider race in admissions — upending decades of precedent.

  • The decision has been expected to have drastic effects on the makeup of student bodies, especially at prestigious U.S. universities.
  • Students for Fair Admissions argued that affirmative action discriminated against white and Asian American applicants.

Worth noting: In the majority opinion from June, the court said that military academies have "potentially distinct interests" from other universities, thus the overturning of affirmative action did not apply to them.

  • At the time, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson touched on the carveout in her dissenting opinion: "The Court has come to rest on the bottom-line conclusion that racial diversity in higher education is only worth potentially preserving insofar as it might be needed to prepare Black Americans and other underrepresented minorities for success in the bunker, not the boardroom."
  • A decision in the new lawsuit would likely apply to the Naval Academy and Air Force Academy as well, the New York Times reports.

Go deeper: Ending affirmative action is watershed moment for higher education

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