Group sues UNC-CH over using race in admissions

Posted November 17, 2014

— 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.


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  • Cheree Teasley Nov 18, 2014
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    Affirmative action was set in place because prior to affirmative action African Americans were actively discriminated against nation wide. This discrimination has a direct link to the number of impoverished black neighborhoods that exist now.

  • Hip-Shot Nov 17, 2014

    It can be argued that affirmative action when carried to the extreme is in fact discrimination.

  • Objective Scientist Nov 17, 2014

    Decades ago UNC-CH did not - for all practical purpose - did not admit females as freshmen. For several years now the incoming freshman class has been something in or near the 62-64% range. I've heard no concern for diversity relative to gender/sex even though the percent of females being admitted is nearing 2/3 of all incoming students. There is a lot of "hypocrisy" and "disingenuousness" when diversity is part of the equation.

  • Danny22 Nov 17, 2014

    It is time to take race and gender off the application form. Make the process based only on performance.

  • wlbbjb Nov 17, 2014

    It is totally unfair to all students no matter what their race to use race as an issue. While admitting one student based on race they may be disavowing another student who may be academically more qualified and who may have worked harder to get to the college level. Just not right.

  • 678devilish Nov 17, 2014

    Why is race always an issue? Can we not learn to get along with each other?

  • SaveEnergyMan Nov 17, 2014

    Race/gender based admissions rewards young people that were never really discriminated against in favor of young people who are not old enough to have discriminated against others. Two wrongs don't make a right.

    Should be interesting to see how liberal judges deal with facts versus their "by any means" utopia.

  • uBnice Nov 17, 2014

    But they will not sue regarding the freshman quota system which has a race effect. Many well-educated/private school educated blacks from the urban areas like RTP, Charlotte, and Wilmington cannot get into UNC because the quota system distributes entry across the state. Entry into UNC is not a merit based system. The freshman quota system also displaces tons of out-of-state students who would be imminently more qualified to most incoming UNC from the rural areas.

    This group should be ashamed of themselves.

  • stymieindurham Nov 17, 2014

    I'm with VEGA!!

  • euimport1 Nov 17, 2014

    finally!!! how about the other schools?