On October 18, 2021, U.S. District Court Judge Loretta C. Biggs upheld the race-conscious admissions policy at UNC Chapel Hill as appropriately tailored to the University’s substantial interest in pursuing and attaining the educational benefits of diversity. Relman Colfax, North Carolina Justice Center, and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law represent a diverse group of eight Black and Latinx students and alumni who intervened in the case to ensure that the Court would hear their testimony about how the admission policy benefitted them by increasing diversity at UNC.
Judge Biggs issued her 161-page decision following a two-week bench trial where our clients testified about their experiences at UNC. Judge Biggs relied extensively on their testimony and the evidence they presented. In the opinion, she noted that the students and alumni “testified credibly and compellingly about the importance of racial and ethnic diversity to their educations while at the University” and that they “confirm[ed] that exposure to diversity in college is necessary to prepare future leaders for their careers.”
After the ruling, our client, Cecilia Polanco, said “[i]t feels great to be seen, heard, and valued for who I am as a whole person, and to have advocated for future students to continue to create and experience diverse and equitable spaces at UNC.”
The decision upholding UNC’s admissions process follows similar decisions by the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts and the First Circuit Court of Appeals affirming Harvard’s race-conscious admission policies. In the event the U.S. Supreme Court may soon consider Harvard’s policy, the reasoning supporting the UNC decision may inform the Court’s review. Advocates will certainly encourage the Court to recognize—as Judge Biggs did so articulately—that “[e]nsuring … our public institutions of higher learning are open and available to all segments of our citizenry is not a gift to be sparingly given to only select populations, but rather is an institutional obligation to be broadly and equitably administered.”
Reed Colfax served as the lead attorney for Relman Colfax in the matter.