On November 17, 2014, Students for Fair Admissions, Inc., an organization opposed to the use of race in the college admissions process, brought suit against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It alleged that UNC's consideration of race in its admission process violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, section 1983, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. 

Relman Colfax represents several students and applicants of color who attend or wanted to attend UNC-Chapel Hill who intervened in the litigation. They have a significant interest in ensuring that future applications are considered under a holistic process that includes the lawful consideration of race, because otherwise, they cannot obtain the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body.

Finding that “the result of this litigation will have a direct and significant impact on North Carolinians’ access to UNC-Chapel Hill,” the Court granted permissive intervention, allowing Intervenors to present information on the history of segregation and discrimination at UNC-Chapel Hill and in North Carolina and the effect of admissions processes on the critical mass of diverse students at UNC-Chapel Hill. 

On September 30, 2019, U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs denied the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. In her decision, Judge Biggs reiterated the Supreme Court’s past holdings that a university may institute a race-conscious admissions program in an effort to obtain the educational benefits that flow from student body diversity, and that a trial is required to develop all of the facts necessary to determine whether UNC’s practices are narrowly tailored to achieve the goal of diversity.

The Relman Colfax litigation team is assisted by co-counsel at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the North Carolina Justice Center

Case Caption

Students for Fair Admission v. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, No. 14-954 (M.D.N.C.)

Published Decisions

319 F.R.D. 490 (M.D.N.C. 2017) (granting permissive intervention to student intervenors)

Practice Areas


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