Dozens of Major U.S. Companies Urge Supreme Court to Uphold Race-Based College Admissions

Eighty-two major U.S. companies have called on the Supreme Court to uphold race-based college admissions, as the Court is set to hear oral arguments on Monday in two cases that center on the use of race as a factor in college admissions.

The companies signed onto one of three amicus briefs. Google, Apple, General Electric, and JetBlue signed on to a brief to the Court that suggests doing away with affirmative action would cause them to lose access to “a pipeline of highly qualified future workers and business leaders.” The companies said they would struggle to meet diversity hiring goals they’ve set.

“Classroom diversity is crucial to producing employable, productive, value-adding citizens in business,” the companies wrote.

Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) has challenged the race-based admissions policies of both Harvard and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, accusing both schools’ policies of discriminating against Asian American applicants and violating equal protection principles.

The cases open the door for the Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, to reconsider its 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger ruling, which allowed race to be used as a factor in college admissions to achieve student body diversity. The Grutter decision allowed the University of Michigan Law School to consider race as a factor in its admissions. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in an opinion at the time that race should be used as a “plus factor” in admissions decisions and said such usage would not violate the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.  

It has been 19 years since the decision. The opinion stated that “race-conscious admissions policies must be limited in time,” adding that “we expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary.”

The two cases were initially merged together as one but were split after Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson recused herself from the Harvard case because she had previously served on the university’s board of overseers. Jackson will now participate in the UNC case.

The Court will likely announce decisions in the cases sometime next year. If the Court were to side with SFFA, schools would no longer be allowed to consider race in admissions.

The Court has taken on the case after it finished a huge session last year in which it overturned Roe v. Wade.

Chief Justice John Roberts has historically been opposed to college affirmative action programs, which were first allowed under the 1978 opinion, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke.

“It is a sordid business, this divvying us up by race,” Roberts wrote in 2006 gerrymandering case.

The next year he wrote in a school desegregation case: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

Roberts wrote in the 2007 opinion that Brown v. Board of Education found that no state “has any authority under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to use race as a factor in affording educational opportunities among its citizens.”

Nine states have already ended consideration of race in university admissions, including Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Washington.

Meanwhile, 63 percent of U.S. adults support the Supreme Court banning colleges and universities from using a student’s race and ethnicity when making decisions about student admissions, a Washington Post poll found this month.

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