The conservative anti-affirmative action strategist Edward Blum, and his organization Students for Fair Admissions, suffered two significant setbacks in their campaign against race-conscious admissions practices at colleges and universities throughout the country. On the same day that Judge Allison D. Burroughs issued the highly publicized decision upholding Harvard University’s admissions process and dismissing Blum’s attack on that University, Judge Loretta C. Biggs rejected his motion for summary judgment in a similar challenge to the University of North Carolina’s admissions process.
In the UNC case, Relman, Dane & Colfax represents students who intervened to defend UNC’s use of race as a factor in its admission process. UNC considers each applicant as “an individual based on all factors in his or her application in order to understand the student holistically and comprehensively.” Race and ethnicity is one factor that UNC considers as part of that holistic review.
In denying the summary judgment challenge to UNC’s admissions process, 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. Judge Biggs concluded 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 importance of UNC’s race-conscious procedures is particularly acute in light of the university’s past history of de jure segregation and discrimination.
Relman, Dane & Colfax, led by Reed Colfax, along with co-counsel at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the North Carolina Justice Center, will present student and expert testimony at the trial in order to demonstrate that UNC’s race-conscious admissions procedures are essential to promoting and maintaining diversity at UNC.