Anti-Affirmative Action group sues West Point

September 20, 2023

Students for Fair Admissions, a conservative group that opposes affirmative action, filed suit in federal court Tuesday against the U.S. Military Academy at West Point over race-based admissions policies. 

The plaintiff is the same organization that won a landmark Supreme Court decision in June, with the supermajority of six conservative Justices ruling in two separate cases to bar affirmative action at private and public colleges in the U.S.

However, that June ruling excluded military academies, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing for the majority, “No military academy is a party to these cases, however, and none of the courts below addressed the propriety of race based admissions systems in that context. This opinion does not address the issue, in light of the potentially distinct interests that military academies may present.”

Now, the plaintiff is bringing a case against West Point to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, though any decision would probably apply to the other service academies, as well.

“West Point has no justification for using race-based admissions. Those admissions are unconstitutional for all other public institutions of higher education,” Students for Fair Admissions wrote in its complaint. “The Academy is not exempt from the Constitution…Because West Point discriminates on the basis of race, its admission policy should be declared unlawful and enjoined.”

The lawsuit again raises the question of whether national security depends on military officers who mirror the demographic composition of enlisted troops as well as the larger U.S. population. 

Back in 2003, in an amicus brief filed by former high-ranking officer and civilian military leaders in the case of Grutter v Bollinger, which upheld affirmative action at the University of Michigans law school. The brief argued that the tally of Black officers serving in the Vietnam War was just 3% by war’s end, a fraction so small that it harmed morale and heightened racial tension in the ranks.

During the Supreme Court’s hearing on affirmative action this year, U.S. solicitor general Elizabeth Prelogar argued, “For the United States military, as I’ve explained, having a diverse officer corps is a critical national security imperative.”

Students for Fair Admissions countered in its filing this week that statistics based on the Vietnam War, which was unpopular at the time and depended on draftees, no longer apply.

According to October 2022 data from its website, West Point has nearly 4,400 undergraduates, 2,693 of whom are White, 483 Black or African American, 545 Hispanic/Latino, 414 Asian and 38 American Indian or Alaska Native.

PHOTO: West Point’s Jefferson Hall

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