North Carolina governors file brief in UNC admissions Supreme Court case

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and three of his predecessors submitted an amicus brief supporting UNC-Chapel Hill in its affirmative action admission case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case, which stems from a 2014 lawsuit against UNC, challenges how colleges and universities should consider race in the admissions process, if at all.

The anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions alleges that UNC discriminated against white and Asian American applicants by using race when evaluating undergraduate student applications. The group, which is made up of thousands of rejected applicants, prospective students and parents, has filed a similar lawsuit against Harvard that will also be heard in court.

Students for Fair Admissions wants race removed from the admissions process, arguing that any consideration of race in education is unconstitutional.

So far, UNC has successfully defended its position that race is an important part of the school’s holistic admissions process but it is not a dominant factor. UNC has also shown how considering a prospective student’s race helps improve diversity on campus and improves the academic experience.

With the fate of race-conscious admissions at public and private institutions in its hands, the conservative court ruling could alter affirmative action in higher education and the diversity of college campuses across the country.

“Our public universities are the training grounds for our state workforce, and the next generation of state and government leaders perform best when they are like the people they represent,” Governor Cooper said. in a press release. “It’s critical that Southern states, including North Carolina, continue to close the education gap.”

Former governors join forces

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, former North Carolina Governors Mike Easley, Bev Perdue, Jim Hunt and other former Southern Governors – including Jim Hodges, Richard Riley, Ray Mabus, Roy Barnes and Terry McAuliffe – also signed the file.

In the brief, these state leaders explain how “diversity in education fosters diversity in government”, and American democracy “demands leaders who reflect the diversity of the people they govern”. Yet historically, “the path to racial minority leadership has been strewn with obstacles,” which have detrimental effects on individual residents and the government itself, the brief states.

Colleges and universities have used race-conscious admissions programs to help break down these barriers preventing residents from diverse backgrounds from pursuing leadership opportunities, they say.

“The State of Education”

“North Carolina’s reputation as the ‘educational state’ demands nothing less than a public education system – including higher education – that values, supports and reflects the great diversity of the state and provides everyone with equal opportunity to pursue their dreams,” the brief said.

While these cases focus on admissions to UNC and Harvard, a decision that eliminates the use of race in college admissions would deviate from previous decades and “seriously disrupt ongoing state efforts.” of the South to reduce inequalities in education,” according to the brief.

The Supreme Court announced last month that it would consider the two cases separately, allowing Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a Harvard alumnus, to participate in the UNC case.

The cases are expected to be argued in the fall, according to the website SCOTUSblog.

This story was originally published August 1, 2022 6:45 p.m.

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Kate Murphy covers higher education for The News & Observer. Previously, she covered higher education for the Cincinnati Enquirer in the Investigative and Corporate Team and USA Today Network. Her work has won state awards in Ohio and Kentucky and she was recently named the Education Writers Association’s 2019 Finalist for Digital Storytelling.
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