Federal lawsuits against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were filed Monday to curtail affirmative action admissions policies at colleges across the country. The complaints allege the schools are not complying with court-ordered standards in trying to diversify their student bodies.
The Project on Fair Representation in Washington filed the lawsuits along with a new nonprofit called Students for Fair Admissions, Bloomberg reported. The group is made up of qualified students rejected by both schools, students who want to apply to them and parents of both.
The lawsuits cited requirements set forth last year in a Supreme Court case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. The opinion ordered colleges striving for diverse student bodies to use race-neutral policies. These include increasing scholarships and taking into account applicants' economic backgrounds, the Associated Press reported.
The lawsuit said Harvard's unfair rules included legacy students, or people whose relatives attended the school, and early admissions, which benefit students with resources to commit to universities early in the application process. Harvard, in Massachusetts, was also called out for limiting the number of Asian-American students it allows to enroll each year. "The number of Asian-Americans Harvard admits today is lower than it was 20 years ago, even though the number of highly qualified Asian-American applicants to Harvard has nearly doubled," director Edward Blum said in a news release.
UNC, the lawsuit asserted, knows that affirmative action policies are less effective than race-neutral policies could be, the AP reported. Although UNC uses a holistic admissions process, race dominates. "The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has no need to continue to use racial and ethnic preferences and should end them now instead of facing years of expensive and polarizing litigation,” Blum said.
Students for Fair Admissions won't stop at Harvard and UNC. It plans to take aim at schools nationwide with the goal of ending affirmative action policies completely. "These two lawsuits are the first of what are expected to be several similar challenges to other competitive colleges that continue to unconstitutionally use racial preferences in admission decisions," Blum said.
Neither Harvard nor UNC had commented on the lawsuits by Monday afternoon.