New Cases and Developments

NACUA's Legal Resources staff summarizes current higher education cases and developments and provides the full text of selected cases to members. New cases and developments are archived here for up to 12 months.  Cases provided by Fastcase, Inc.

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Admissions; Affirmative Action; Affirmative Action; Students; Equal Protection

Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College (D. Mass. June 2, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion and Order denying Harvard College’s Motion to Dismiss. Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. (SFFA), a nonprofit organization of voluntary members whose mission is to defend human and civil rights secured by law, filed suit alleging that Harvard uses racially and ethnically discriminatory policies and procedures in administering its undergraduate admissions program in violation of Title VI and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Specifically, SFFA contends that Harvard’s general consideration of race in its undergraduate admissions program violates the Equal Protection Clause because it allegedly engages in unlawful “racial balancing.” Additionally, SFFA alleges that Harvard's policies invidiously discriminate against Asian-American applicants in particular by admitting only a limited number of Asian-American applicants each year. Harvard challenged the SFFA’s standing to file suit, primarily based on the argument that SFFA’s members play no meaningful role in the organization and therefore SFFA cannot genuinely represent them for the purposes of associational standing. The court concluded that SFFA, as an organization of actual members, did not need to meet the “indicia of membership” test to assert associational standing and that it met all the remaining standing prerequisites.

Affirmative Action; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity; Equal Protection; Race and National Origin Discrimination; Constitutional Issues

Fisher v. University of Texas (U.S., June 23, 2016)

Plaintiff, a Caucasian woman who was denied admission to Defendant University of Texas at Austin, originally filed suit in 2008, claiming that Defendant’s consideration of race as part of its holistic-review admissions process disadvantaged her and other Caucasian applicants, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. In Fisher I, The U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed its upholding of race-conscious affirmative action in Grutter v. Bollinger, then remanded the case. On appeal, the Supreme Court upheld Defendant’s race-conscious admissions program. Though the University has “a continuing obligation to satisfy the strict scrutiny burden,” the Court concluded that Defendant had met this obligation by “articulat[ing] concrete and precise goals . . . that mirror the compelling interest this court has approved in prior cases.” And, in this particular case, the primary reason Plaintiff was denied admission was not Defendant’s consideration of race, but the Top Ten Percent plan, in which the top ten percent of high school graduates are admitted to the public university of their choice. Thus the Court found that Plaintiff failed to show that she was denied equal treatment at the time her application was rejected.