Group sues UNC-CH over using race in admissions
Posted November 17, 2014
Chapel Hill, N.C. — A nonprofit group that has previously challenged race-based college admissions before the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday filed a federal lawsuit against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, alleging that its admissions standards unconstitutionally discriminate against white and Asian-American students.
The Project on Fair Representation filed the lawsuit and a similar lawsuit against Harvard University on behalf of a group calling itself Students for Fair Admissions Inc. Members of the UNC Board of Governors and the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees were named as defendants, along with UNC President Tom Ross, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost James Dean and Vice Provost for Enrollment and Undergraduate Admissions Stephen Farmer.
"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," Edward Blum, the director of the Project on Fair Representation, said in a statement.
UNC officials said Monday that they have no plans to change their admissions policies.
"The University stands by its current undergraduate admissions policy and process," spokesman Rick White said in a statement. "Further, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights determined in 2012 that UNC-Chapel Hill’s use of race in the admissions process is consistent with federal law."
The lawsuit alleges that UNC-Chapel Hill includes the race of college applicants in determining admissions, violating the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and federal civil rights laws.
"Only using race or ethnicity as a dominant factor in admissions decisions could, for example, account for the disparate treatment of high-achieving Asian-American and white applicants and underrepresented minority applicants with inferior academic credentials," the lawsuit states. "High-achieving Asian-American and white applicants are as broadly diverse and eclectic in their abilities and interests as any other group seeking admission to UNC-Chapel Hill. ... It is not a lack of non-academic achievement that is keeping them from securing admission. It is UNC-Chapel Hill’s dominant use of racial preferences to their detriment."
The university could instead use various race-neutral means to boost the diversity of its student body, such as providing more financial aid, recruiting more high-achieving, socioeconomically disadvantaged minority students or high-achieving community college students and eliminating legacy admissions, according to the lawsuit.
Students for Fair Admissions seeks a court order throwing out UNC-Chapel Hill's admissions process and an injunction that prevents admissions officers from knowing the race of student applicants.
The Project for Fair Representation previously represented Abigail Fisher, who sued the University of Texas over its admissions. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-1 in 2013 that lower courts should have placed the burden on the university to justify its admissions policies.
UNC-Chapel Hill filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in the Texas case backing that school's admissions process, White said.
"The University continues to affirm the educational benefits diversity brings to students, as well as the importance of preparing students for a diverse society and assuring a pool of strong state leaders by admitting undergraduates from every background," he said.