Supreme Court hears race-based affirmative action in admissions arguments involving UNC

Akilah Davis Image
Tuesday, November 1, 2022
Justices hear UNC race-based affirmative action in admissions case
Justices listened to oral arguments in two major cases challenging race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard University and University of North Carolina.

Monday morning, the Supreme Court heard two cases regarding challenges to the use of race-based affirmative action in admission policies at the University of North Carolina (UNC) and Harvard.

The lawsuit, first filed in 2014, argues the universities respective uses of race as a factor in admissions is in violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, with the UNC challenge also focused on the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment.

Justices listened to oral arguments in two major cases challenging race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard University and University of North Carolina. It's the first test for affirmative action before the current court, which has a six-justice conservative majority and three justices of color, including the first-ever Black woman justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson.

The court's decision, due out next year, could end the policy that's shaped the college admissions process for the past half-century.

In the UNC case, North Carolina Solicitor General Ryan Park is represented the university during the arguments. Patrick Strawbridge argued on behalf of Students for Fair Admissions in the UNC case. Strawbridge has represented Trump in Jan. 6 matters, challenges to 2020 election results in key states and in a bid to shield his tax returns from House investigators.

"If that door is closed, then that turns back to hands of time on progress being made," said Floyd McKissick Jr.

McKissick stands proudly on the legacy left by his father. Floyd McKissick Sr. became UNC Chapel Hill's first Black student in 1951. He integrated the university after winning the lawsuit.

"As a graduate of both Harvard and UNC, I feel strongly about it. I think race-conscious admissions policies need to exist to ensure diversity on college campuses," he said.

He stands on his father's shoulders as he and many other minorities over the years have been able to obtain degrees from Chapel Hill.

McKissick traveled to Capitol Hill to speak to Chapel Hill students for affirmative action yesterday seen in a photo with Student Body President Taliajah Vann.

"It's very enriching for students on campus to benefit from people from different world views, perspectives and life experiences. It enriches the educational environment for all," said McKissick.

His words come as a historic debate unfolds on Capitol Hill. The Supreme Court of the United States heard nearly three hours of oral arguments from both sides.

" The record in this case is that UNC gives racial preferences to African Americans, Hispanic Americans and to American Indians. It does not give racial preferences to white applicants and Asian applicants," said Patrick Strawbridge, the attorney representing Students for Fair Admissions.

The attorney for UNC Chapel Hill argued that there are benefits to a diverse environment.

"Diversity is our nation's greatest source of strength. As our Reconstruction founders understood, it also poses unique challenges to the American experience. We live in a democracy and for that democracy to flourish, we all have to learn to live together," said Ryan Park, North Carolina Solicitor General.

ABC11 asked Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz how does UNC plan to continue diversity efforts if affirmative action is eliminated.

"I'm not going to speculate on the outcome of this case," he said. "We will continue to emphasize the importance of diversity on our campus.

According to Guskiewicz, a decision from the court should take at least six to eight months.

Chief Justice John Roberts introduced the case at 10:04 a.m. and arguments began for the Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina. The case was argued for three hours.

Friday, Irving Joyner, a professor of law at NC Central, told ABC11 that race has played a role in admissions process for decades.

"In the past, it had been factored in in order to exclude African-Americans and racial minorities from the calculus. Now it is used to include, to ensure that the segregationist nature of past decisions did not continue. But you can't cure a problem without first of all recognizing the basis for the problem, and then creating a formula that would reverse what has occurred in the past," said Joyner.

Starting Monday, masks are now required in all public indoor spaces in Philadelphia.

Related stories

Supreme Court to hear case involving race-based affirmative action in admissions

'I deserve to be at UNC': students, alum on Chapel Hill Affirmative Action case