Affirmative Action Challenge

Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. Harvard and UNC

America’s higher education institutions have long recognized and cultivated the educational benefits of diversity. Current holistic admissions practices adhere to a legal framework that has grounded diversity efforts for decades. AACRAO believes these practices are instrumental in helping institutions to identify students who are likely to thrive in their educational programs.

There is a long history of case law that supports the use of holistic assessment’s focus on diversity and confirms that colleges and universities have a compelling interest in ensuring student body diversity. As student demographics undergo rapid change, more colleges and universities are looking beyond traditional measures to admit future students. To remove the consideration of non-academic factors is unfair to applicants for whom this is a critical part of their life and would deprive applicants of full and due consideration of their lived experiences.

Up-to-date Guidance

AACRAO encourages members to begin to examine any admissions or recruitment practices that target populations of a specific race as well as their overall holistic/equity admissions practices.

To assist in this process, AACRAO is providing this guidance document to prepare our members for a possible major change in their ability to consider an applicant’s race and ethnicity as part of a holistic/equity review in admissions. 


Webinar: Looking Back, Planning Ahead

On February 2, 2023, AACRAO hosted a webinar that examines the pending U.S. Supreme cases where the central question is whether colleges and universities can continue to consider an applicant’s race and ethnicity as part of the holistic review process in admissions.

View Recording


Harvard Admissions Case Appealed to Supreme Court

Mar 4, 2021, 10:14 AM
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Summary : The anti-affirmative action group challenging Harvard's admissions process asks the court to overturn a key precedent that allows schools to consider race when choosing an entering class.
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Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), an anti-affirmative action group, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a key precedent that allows schools to consider race when choosing an entering class, The Washington Post reported.

The petition is part of SFFA's long-running challenge against Harvard University's admissions process. 

In November, the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday affirmed a lower court decision that Harvard does not discriminate against Asian American applicants. SFFA originally filed suit against the institution in 2014, alleging that the university gives unfair preferences to black and Hispanic students in admissions decisions and intentionally discriminates against their white and Asian American peers.

The group's new petition asks the Supreme Court to overturn its 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger ruling that allows race-conscious admissions in higher education in the interest of achieving student body diversity, reported the Post. SFFA's challenge against Harvard is widely believed to become the Supreme Court's next opening to ban affirmative action.

While the Supreme Court has allowed colleges to narrowly use race in admissions for decades, SFFA could have favorable odds given the conservative majority on the high court.

"After six and one-half years of litigation, the hundreds of Asian-American students who were unfairly and illegally rejected from Harvard because of their race may soon have this lawsuit reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court," SFFA President Edward Blum said in a statement. "It is our hope that the justices will accept this case and finally end the consideration of race and ethnicity in college admissions."

However, Harvard continues to argue that creating a diverse campus community is essential to its mission, the Post reported.

"As earlier court decisions have confirmed, our admissions policies are consistent with Supreme Court precedent," the university said in a statement. "We will continue to vigorously defend the right of Harvard College, and every other college and university in the nation, to seek the educational benefits that come from bringing together a diverse group of students."

Meanwhile, SFFA also announced a new lawsuit against Yale University, alleging it intentionally discriminates against Asian American students in admissions, Inside Higher Ed reported. The U.S. Department of Justice in February dropped its Trump-era case against institution and SFFA had vowed to pick it up. Yale will continue to staunchly defend its admission practices.

Related Links

The Washington Post 

Inside Higher Ed

Michelle Mott
Categories :
  • Admissions and Recruitment
  • Advocacy
  • Affirmative Action Challenge
  • Diversity and Inclusion
Tags :
  • Affirmative Action
  • Affirmative Action Challenge
  • Discrimination
  • Federal relations
  • in the courts
  • Race
  • race-conscious
  • supreme court
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