(Bloomberg) -- The US Supreme Court let West Point continue using race as an admissions factor for now, rejecting an emergency request that sought to halt the decades-old affirmative action efforts at the nation’s oldest military academy.
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Without any public dissent the justices turned away an interest group that won a blockbuster ruling last year, when the high court barred civilian universities from considering race in admissions for the sake of campus diversity. That ruling explicitly left open the issue of admissions at the country’s service academies.
“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,” the court said in a two-sentence order Friday.
The Biden administration says race-conscious admissions at the country’s service academies are a matter of national security, helping ensure the military is led by a diverse officer corps. The Army learned its lesson during the Vietnam War, when racial tensions erupted amid accusations that a largely White officer corps was using minority servicemembers as “cannon fodder,” Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar told the justices.
“As the most senior leaders of the US Armed Forces have concluded for decades, the Army has a compelling national-security interest in a diverse officer corps,” said Prelogar, the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer.
Students for Fair Admissions, which says it represents two White applicants to West Point, sued over the admissions program. The group, whose challenges to policies at Harvard College and the University of North Carolina led to last year’s 6-3 Supreme Court ruling, asked the justices to act by West Point’s Jan. 31 application deadline.
West Point is “about to illegally discriminate against thousands of applicants for the class of 2028 – including two of SFFA’s members – based on their skin color,” the group argued.
A federal trial judge and an appeals court refused to halt the policy while the litigation goes forward.
The case is Students for Fair Admissions v. US Military Academy at West Point, 23A696.
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