Supreme Court Friday declined to temporarily block it Race-conscious admissions at the U.S. military academy at West Point paves the way for the school to consider race as a factor in selecting its incoming class in the fall.
The court order was rejected Request for emergency assistance From Students for Fair Admissions, a conservative group that has repeatedly challenged affirmative action in college admissions, a lawsuit is moving forward. It asked the judges to act quickly as West Point prepares to stop accepting applications on January 31.
The court's order said the record was “non-developmental” and that the court's denial “should not be construed as expressing any opinion on the merits of the constitutional question,” indicating that the justices may consider the issue in the future. There were no significant differences of opinion.
Students for Fair Admissions successfully challenged race-based admissions at Harvard and the University of North Carolina. The court's last term effectively ended a policy that colleges across the country had relied on for decades to increase racial segregation.
In June, the justices, split on ideological grounds in a 6-to-3 decision, declared admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina illegal.
In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., in a footnote, limited the scope of the decision by exempting military academies.
He wrote that the court's ruling did not extend to institutions like West Point, the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy because they had “vested interests.”
The founder of Students for Fair Admissions, Edward Blum, seems to have framed the challenge to focus on that exclusion.
Within three months of the decision being announced, Students for Fair Admission sued West Point, claiming the institution's admissions practices violated the Constitution.
Students for Fair Admissions argued that the government misinterpreted Chief Justice Roberts' footnote as an exception for military academies. “Beyond a travesty,” the group said in its petition seeking relief, the court's decision to curtail race-conscious admissions overlooked military academies because the Supreme Court “did not see how they used race.”
The panel argued that admissions to the nation's oldest military academy violated the standard established in the Harvard case and that it was “worse than Harvard.”
It said West Point acted with “unmitigated racial discrimination”: giving racial preference to three groups of applicants: black, Hispanic and Native American. “The school uses race to determine which office reviews applications, how many early offers are awarded and what grades applicants should receive,” the petition added.
Students for Fair Admissions urged the court to act quickly because “every year this case languishes in discovery, trial or appeals, West Point will continue to label and sort thousands of applicants based on their skin color.”
In A brief for GovtSolicitor General Elizabeth B. Preloger said the current admissions process at West Point should remain in place, arguing that students' demand for fairer admissions would force the academy to “repeal generations of military-mandated admissions practices.”
It described the Jan. 31 deadline as arbitrary because West Point has been reviewing applications since August and has “already made offers to hundreds of applicants,” making up a significant portion of the slots for the Class of 2028.
Racial diversity among military leaders is essential to national security, the brief added.
“For more than 40 years, our nation's military leaders have determined that a diverse corps of military officers is a national-security imperative, and that achieving that diversity requires limited consideration of race in the selection of cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point,” Ms. Prelogar wrote.
“A lack of diversity in leadership can hurt the military's ability to win wars,” he added, adding that “internal racial tensions erupted during the Vietnam War that went unnoticed for decades.”
The Biden administration touched on military academies when it filed a brief in favor of Harvard and North Carolina. In the active military as a whole, white service members make up 53 percent but 73 percent of officers, while black service members make up 18 percent of the active force but 8 percent of officers, the government said. One in five officers comes from a military academy.
West Point Represents diversity Its student body on its website. The Most recently joined class, scheduled to graduate in 2027, has about 1,250 students. Approximately 38 percent are ethnic minorities, including 127 African Americans, 137 Hispanic Americans, 170 Asian Americans, and 18 Native Americans.
Anemona hortocollis Contributed report.