A lawsuit filed against UNC-Chapel Hill on Monday challenges the university’s use of race in admissions.
The group behind the lawsuit, the Project on Fair Representation, also filed legal action against Harvard University on Monday, according to a news release. The plaintiff in both lawsuits is a group of rejected applicants, prospective students and parents that have formed a nonprofit called Students for Fair Admissions.
At the heart of the complaint against UNC-CH is the contention that the university has not complied with the U.S. Supreme Court’s guidance in the Fisher vs. University of Texas at Austin case. In sending that case back to an appeals court, the high court said that race can be only considered in admissions under “strict scrutiny,” and that universities should first pursue “workable race-neutral alternatives.”
Monday’s lawsuit said UNC-CH, in submitting a supporting brief in the Texas case, said that it could achieve racial diversity through other race-neutral means.
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“Students for Fair Admissions argues that this compels the university to end its racial classifications and preferences and adopt some combination of race-neutral policies instead,” the group’s news release said.
The Project on Fair Representation had sought potential plaintiffs for months at a website, uncnotfair.org. The website features a photograph of a young man of Asian descent with the question: “Were You Denied Admission to the University of North Carolina? It may be because you’re the wrong race.”
In trying to attract plaintiffs, the group’s website said: “UNC-Chapel Hill is a great university and we know it’s tough to be admitted. But UNC continues to use an applicant’s race and ethnicity as an admission criterion even though a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision essentially forbids these practices. We believe that’s neither fair nor legal and we are committed to ending UNC’s racial preference policies in court.”
Similar websites by the group were aimed at Harvard and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The group’s lawsuit against Harvard maintains that the university discriminates against Asian-American students through a quota limit, admitting less qualified white, Latino and African-American students.
The Project on Fair Representation is funded by a group supported by conservative donors and foundations, according to media reports.
In the Texas case, an appeals court review of the admissions policies upheld the university’s consideration of race.
The University of Texas uses a “10 percent plan,” admitting the top graduates in each high school. Because of segregation in public high schools, the university achieves racial and ethnic diversity with the policy. The university also considers race for slots not filled by the percent plan.
Edward Blum, the director of the Project on Fair Representation, said in the news release: “These two lawsuits are the first of what are expected to be several similar challenges to other competitive colleges that continue to unconstitutionally use racial preferences in admission decisions.”