Trump-packed Supreme Court appears ready to overturn decades of precedent on affirmative action

So, apparently, is taking the job seriously. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson recused herself from the Harvard case because she served on the Harvard Board of Overseers before joining the Court, displaying an ethical standard none of the conservatives would even consider. Meanwhile, Justice Neil Gorsuch seemed to have failed to even do his homework to prepare for arguments.


The court’s three liberal justices spent most of their time rebutting the basic premise behind the challengers’ cases—that race was the one determining factor in the admissions process under affirmative action, and just one factor—an important one, but not the overriding factor, and that the process wasn’t intended to give any one group an advantage in higher education, but to make campuses diverse places that look like American while at the same time providing educational benefits for everyone on campus.

Jackson took Patrick Strawbridge, one of the lawyers for the challengers in the UNC case, to task. “You haven’t demonstrated or shown one situation in which all they look at is race and take from that stereotypes and other things. They are looking at the full person,” she said. She added that universities don’t make admission decisions “just because somebody checks a box.”

The plaintiffs, and some of the conservative justices, provided the tired old argument that allowing these race-based considerations was, in fact, hurting students of color and minority groups, that affirmative action was, in fact, holding them back. “They stigmatize their intended beneficiaries. They increase racial consciousness, which delays the day in which we can move to true racial neutrality. And they cause resentment by treating people differently based on something they can’t change,” attorney Cameron Norris, representing Students for Fair Admissions said.

He also worked hard to pit one group—Asian American applicants—against students of color, arguing, “The people who are applying to college now, they should not be the victims of Harvard’s racial experimentation.”

Solicitor General Elizabeth. B. Prelogar argued for the Biden administration, telling the justices that overturning the decades of precedent on college admissions would have “profound consequences” for “the nation that we are and the nation that we aspire to be.” She provided an example that should have hit home for Justices: in the 27 cases they are going to sit for this session, just two women will appear before them as advocates. Two.


Justice Elena Kagan addressed that, and the benefits of diversity in higher education to society at large. “These are the pipelines to leadership in our society. It might be military leadership. It might be business leadership. It might be leadership in the law. It might be leadership in all kinds of different areas. Universities are the pipeline to that leadership,” she said.

“I thought that part of what it meant to be an American and to believe in American pluralism is that actually our institutions, you know, are reflective of who we are as a people in all our variety.”

That, too, is a quaint relic of bygone days for America, apparently. At least as far as the Trump-packed Supreme Court majority is concerned.

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