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Students for Fair Admissions vs. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is representing a diverse group of prospective and current students, as well as alumni, to showcase how the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s race-conscious admissions policy has helped to increase diversity and give all qualified students opportunities. The anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions insists UNC’s admissions policy unfairly uses race to give significant preference to underrepresented minority applicants, to the detriment of white and Asian American applicants.

The race-conscious admissions policy at UNC Chapel Hill follows Supreme-Court precedent, and we need to continue to expand on the progress we’ve made when it comes to diversity and inclusivity in the classroom. Race is an integral part of a students’ identity, and must be treated as such during the admissions process.
David Hinojosa

Director, Educational Opportunities Project

Case Timeline and Key Documents

September 9, 2022

Supreme Court granted Lawyers’ Committee motion for oral argument time.

August 3, 2022

Supreme Court set oral argument for October 31st.

August 1, 2022

Amicus briefs submitted to the Court.

July 25, 2022

Lawyers’ Committee, representing Student-Intervenors, and UNC submit their briefs defending race-conscious admissions and nearly 45 years of established legal precedent, which allows colleges to consider the race of highly-qualified applicants in admissions to promote the benefits of diverse learning environments.

July 22, 2022
Supreme Court deconsolidated the cases creating two separate oral arguments. Newly appointed Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson will participate in the UNC case, but has recused herself from the Harvard case.
May 2, 2022

SFFA files its brief at the Supreme Court seeking to end affirmative action in higher education, closing doors of opportunity to many talented students of color who face racial barriers and contribute to our national progress every day.

January 24, 2022
The Supreme Court grants SFFA’s petition and consolidates the UNC and Harvard cases.

December 2021
UNC and Student-Intervenors oppose the petition for certiorari.
November 2021
SFFA files an appeal with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals but also asks the Supreme Court to directly take up the appeal alongside SFFA v. Harvard.
October 2021
Judge Biggs issues the court’s 155-page ruling upholding UNC’s race-conscious admissions program.

November 9, 2020

The two-week trial is held before the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. The national Lawyers’ Committee and the North Carolina Justice Center and co-counsel present eight Black and Latinx students/alumni who testify powerfully about how their race and ethnicity is inseparable from their experiences and identity. Students also present two expert reports and several student and alumni declarations discussing the benefits of diversity they have experienced as well as the continuing challenges presented by lower levels of diversity and the sociohistorical history and ongoing effects of racism and discrimination on campus.  The parties are expected to file post-trial briefs to the court in February 2021.

October 20, 2020

The court issues its Trial Protocol to ensure the safety and health of court staff, the parties, witnesses and attendants in light of COVID-19 risks. The court further permits certain witnesses to testify remotely and others by submission of declarations and expert reports. 

September 30, 2019

The trial court judge denies summary judgment and orders the case to go to trial.

January 13, 2017

The court grants the motion to intervene, finding that this case’s result will have a direct and significant impact on North Carolinians’ access to their state’s public flagship institution. This status allows the students and alumni that the national Lawyers’ Committee represents to demonstrate the specific need for UNC-Chapel Hill to consider race as part of its admissions process by presenting as evidence the history of segregation and discrimination in North Carolina and at UNC-Chapel Hill and its present effects on the campus environment and the effect of UNC’s admissions processes on student body diversity.  

June 30, 2015

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the North Carolina Justice Center and pro bono counsel, Relman, Dane, & Colfax PLLC, file a motion to intervene on behalf of students to defend the limited, but meaningful inclusion of race—as one factor among many factors—to increase diversity and afford opportunities to all qualified students at UNC-Chapel Hill. The national Lawyers’ Committee and co-counsel represent a diverse group of prospective and current students, as well as UNC-Chapel Hill alumni.  

November 27, 2014

Anti-affirmative action activist Edward Blum and his organization, Students for Fair Admissions, files a lawsuit in United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. The lawsuit targets the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s race-conscious admissions policy, claiming the policy violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It asserts that UNC unfairly uses race to give significant preference to underrepresented minority applicants to the detriment of white and Asian American applicants, while ignoring race-neutral alternatives for achieving a diverse student body.