What the cases are about: The group Students for Fair Admissions filed lawsuits years ago on behalf of white and Asian-American students who say they were wrongfully denied admission to universities based on their race. The cases have made their way to the Supreme Court, one alleging that Harvard University violated the Civil Rights Act—which prohibits racial discrimination for programs receiving federal funding—and the other arguing that the University of North Carolina violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
What’s happened in the past: The Supreme Court has allowed schools to use limited racial preferences in admissions for decades, saying that furthering diversity is a legitimate goal and that someday, affirmative action “will no longer be necessary” to accomplish it.
But that might change: The Court’s conservative majority seemed unsympathetic to these arguments as supporters could not determine a clear “end point” for such goals. Several of these justices have criticized affirmative action in other cases.
What’s at stake: Polling from this year showed that most Americans—including members of different political and ethnic groups—believe race should not be a factor in school admissions and that grades and test scores should be determining factors. Banning racial preferences in higher education admissions would bring America closer to a merit-based society. But the left has argued for decades that this would ignore systemic and historic injustices.