A federal judge has ruled that the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill can continue using race as a factor in its admissions process, rejecting a nonprofit’s argument that such quotas favor women and students of color.
In her ruling, Justice Loretta C. Biggs said UNC has a compelling reason to pursue affirmative action — policies seeking to include particular groups based on their gender, race, or sexuality. Race-conscious admissions processes have demonstrated measurable benefits for the university, and the development of a diverse student body is not only constitutional “but welcomed,” the court ruled.
“While no student can or should be admitted to this university, or any other, based solely on race, because race is so interwoven in every aspect of the lived experience of minority students, ignoring it would “reduce its importance” and miss “important context,” Judge Biggs wrote.
The ruling came in response to a petition filed by conservative nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) against UNC in 2014. The group claimed that the university’s affirmative action stance had “intentionally discriminated against certain of (its) members on the basis of their race, color, or ethnicity.”
SFFA President Edward Blum said he will now appeal to the United States Court of Appeals. Blum is also at loggerheads with Harvard and has filed a similar affirmative action lawsuit against the university.
He hopes both cases are tried together so that public and private university applicants receive a fair judgment. “Shame on Harvard, shame on UNC and shame on all universities who take federal funds from considering race as an element,” he said.
UNC defended its admissions practices, saying that it took every measure to ensure that affirmative action was pursued legally and constitutionally. While it had explored race-neutral alternatives, such options would not be feasible to achieve a diverse student body.
According to UNC, its 20,000 undergraduate students in fall 2021 include 56% white, 13% Asian, 10% Hispanic, and 8.5% Black students.
“We evaluate each student in a deliberate and thoughtful way, appreciating individual strengths, talents and contributions to a vibrant campus community where students from all backgrounds can excel and thrive,” university spokesperson Beth Keith wrote.