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Judge rules that Univ. of North Carolina can use race in admissions process

Judge rules that Univ. of North Carolina can use race in admissions process
A judge ruled in favor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill using race in its undergraduate application process. Photo by William Yeung/Wikimedia Commons

Oct. 19 (UPI) -- A federal judge has ruled that the University of North Carolina's use of race in its undergraduate admissions process is constitutional.

The ruling comes in response to a complaint filed in 2014 by the conservative Students for Fair Admissions, which accused the university of using discriminatory policies and procedures in its undergraduate admissions program that penalized White and Asian applicants.

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In her 155-page ruling on Monday, Judge Loretta Biggs wrote that the university's admissions process is "highly individualized," "holistic" and "narrowly tailored" within the law to enroll a diverse student body.

She said the university had also considered other race-neutral strategies but no alternative was found that would achieve its goals as well as its current process.

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"While no student can or should be admitted to this university, or any other, based solely on race, because race is so interwoven in every aspect of the lived experience of minority students, to ignore it, reduce its importance and measure it only by statistical models as SFFA has done, misses important context to include obscuring racial barriers and obstacles that have been faced, overcome and are yet to be overcome," she wrote.

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Biggs continued that the school's pursuit of a diverse student body is not only constitutional "but welcomed," even though it falls well short of its goal of creating a diverse environment.

"[N]early 70 years after the first black students were admitted to UNC, the minority students at the university still report being confronted with racial epithets, as well as feeling isolated, ostracized, stereotyped and viewed as tokens in a number of university spaces," she wrote.

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She said evidence also shows that, as a whole, minorities are admitted at lower rates than their White and Asian American peers.

According to the school's statistics, of the 5,630 students admitted this year, 65% are White, 21% Asian American, 12% Black, 10% hispanic and 2% American Indian or Alaska Native.

Students for Fair Admissions founder Edward Blum told The New York Times that they will appeal the decision to the justices of the Supreme Court whom they'll ask to "end these unfair and unconstitutional race-based admissions policies."

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Ben Keith, the associate vice chancellor for communications at UNC, celebrated the ruling in an emailed statement to The Charlotte Observer.

"This decision makes clear that the university's holistic admissions approach is lawful," he said. "We evaluate each student in a deliberate and thoughtful way, appreciating individual strengths, talents and contributions to vibrant campus community where students from all backgrounds can excel and thrive."

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The ruling comes as the Students for Fair Admissions pursues similar cases against the University of Texas and Harvard University with the Supreme Court in the latter challenge holding off on a ruling in June to give the Biden administration time to put forth its opinion on the matter.

A lower district court and the First Circuit Appeals Court have ruled in Harvard's favor.

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