Who's who in the Supreme Court's affirmative action cases

The University of North Carolina’s diverse student body
Members of the University of North Carolina?s diverse student body mingle on campus as the Supreme Court weighs the issue of race-conscious admissions to colleges, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S., April 5, 2023. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

May 24 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court is due to rule by the end of June on the legality of race-conscious admissions policies at colleges and universities, a practice called affirmative action employed by a majority of selective schools.

Here is a look at some of the key players in the cases.

HARVARD UNIVERSITY

Harvard University is a private Ivy League school of global prestige located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is the oldest U.S. university. Harvard was sued in 2014 by anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions, which accused Harvard of unlawful discrimination against Asian American applicants in its admissions practices. Harvard has called the lawsuit politically motivated and has defended its admissions process, which takes race into consideration alongside dozens of other factors. The lawsuit accused Harvard of violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination based on race, color or national origin under any program or activity receiving federal funding.

UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a prestigious public research university. It is the flagship school of the 16-campus UNC system and the oldest U.S. public university. Students for Fair Admissions sued UNC in 2014, alleging that the Chapel Hill campus unlawfully discriminated against white and Asian American applicants. The school denies the allegations and, like Harvard, has defended its admissions objective of enrolling a diverse student body. The lawsuit accused the university of violating the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment promise of equal protection under the law.

STUDENTS FOR FAIR ADMISSIONS

Students for Fair Admissions is a nonprofit organization founded in 2014 by conservative activist Edward Blum, who has waged a legal war against affirmative action policies. The group takes on the cases of college applicants who contend they were wrongfully rejected by a college or university on the basis of race.

EDWARD BLUM

The founder of Students for Fair Admissions, Blum has said he is on a mission to erase racial preferences intended to boost diversity in American life. He began his campaign to legally challenge race-conscious admissions in 2008, when he took on the case of Abigail Fisher, a white student who felt she had been discriminated against in her rejection by the University of Texas. The Supreme Court upheld the University of Texas admissions policy in that case, but the court's makeup has since changed, moving it ideologically to the right.

LAWYERS' COMMITTEE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS UNDER LAW

The Lawyers' Committee is a nonprofit organization founded in 1963 with the mission of fighting for equity for U.S. racial minorities. The group has represented students, prospective students and alumni at Harvard and UNC for nearly a decade as they defend the school admissions policies.

Compiled by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Will Dunham and Donna Bryson

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Gabriella Borter is a reporter on the U.S. National Affairs team, covering cultural and political issues as well as breaking news. She has won two Front Page Awards from the Newswomen’s Club of New York - in 2020 for her beat reporting on healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in 2019 for her spot story on the firing of the police officer who killed Eric Garner. The latter was also a Deadline Club Awards finalist. She holds a B.A. in English from Yale University and joined Reuters in 2017.