A student group accusing Harvard of discrimination against Asians asked the Supreme Court to take up its case and ban the use of race in college admissions on Thursday.
The group, Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), alleges that Harvard imposes a racial penalty on Asian applicants and engineers the demographic composition of each incoming class. But Thursday’s petition goes beyond the situation at Harvard and urges the Court to overturn the legal foundations of affirmative action.
“At Harvard, race is … an anvil on the scale that dominates the entire process,” the petition reads. “At Harvard, race is not a temporary evil to be repealed as soon as possible; it is a key aspect of identity that Harvard will use until a court makes it stop.”
Thursday’s petition tees up a showdown in the High Court over race and higher education. The plaintiffs will likely find a friendly hearing in the right-leaning Court, which has sounded growing skepticism about racial policies. The petition opens by noting that Chief Justice John Roberts called race-based decision-making “a sordid business” in a 2006 case. Yet the dispute comes at a time of acute racial tension, putting the Court at the center of a charged social conflict.
The case is also a measuring stick for the conservative legal movement. Conservative activist Edward Blum helped organize the suit, which has been litigated from its inception by William Consovoy, a Clarence Thomas acolyte who represented former president Donald Trump in disputes with Congress over his financial records. And the case comes to a Court with three Trump-appointed justices, all products of the conservative legal establishment.
The Justice Department filed briefs supporting SFFA in the lower courts, but its new Biden appointees are almost certain to back Harvard in the Supreme Court. The Biden DOJ on Feb. 3 abandoned a Trump-era lawsuit that claimed Yale University similarly discriminates against Asians and whites.
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