Supreme Court allows West Point to continue considering race in admissions decisions

The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. | YouTube/West Point - The U.S. Military Academy

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a request to prevent the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, from using race as a factor in its admissions policy, even though the high court struck down similar policies at other institutions last year.

In a miscellaneous order released last Friday, Justice Sonia Sotomayor rejected a request for an injunction pending appeal from the group Students for Fair Admissions against West Point.

“The record before this Court is underdeveloped, and this order should not be construed as expressing any view on the merits of the constitutional question,” noted the brief order.

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In June 2023, the SFFA scored a victory when the high court ruled 6-3 in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College that Harvard and the University of North Carolina could not use race as a factor in student admissions.

Last September, SFFA filed a lawsuit against West Point, accusing the military academy of violating the equal protection principle of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

They also filed a similar lawsuit against the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

“Over the years, courts have been mindful of the military’s unique role in our nation’s life and the distinctive considerations that come with it,” said SFFA President Edward Blum in a statement last year.

“However, no level of deference justifies these polarizing and disliked racial classifications and preferences in admissions to West Point or any of our service academies.”

Blum contends that since the “Supreme Court’s recent opinion in the SFFA cases expressly forbids all institutions of higher education from using race in admissions decisions, it must follow that the U. S. military higher education institutions must end their race-based policies as well.”

In December, U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett in Baltimore, a George W. Bush appointee, rejected the group’s request for an injunction against the Naval Academy because he believed it failed to show that the lawsuit was likely to succeed.

In January, U.S. District Judge Philip M. Halpern, a Trump appointee, rejected the SFFA’s petition for a preliminary injunction, arguing that such a measure could cause major issues at West Point.

“A full factual record is vital to answering this critical question whether the use of race in the admissions process at West Point furthers compelling governmental interests and whether the government’s use of race is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest,” Halpern wrote, as quoted by The Washington Post.

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