In a major Supreme Court victory against affirmative action in June, a group sued the U.S. military academy at West Point on Tuesday, arguing that the court’s ruling barring race-conscious college admissions should extend to the nation’s military academies.
Students, a group for fair admissions, was the driving force behind the lawsuit that led to the Supreme Court striking down racially sensitive admissions practices at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. Country.
But the court specifically excluded military academies, including West Point, the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy, from its conclusion that affirmative action in college admissions cannot be reconciled with the Constitution’s equal protection guarantees. In a footnote to the majority opinion, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote that the court did not rule one way or the other on the academies because of the “distinct interests that military academies may present.”
That footnote created the opening for a new round of litigation, and Students for Fair Admissions took it up.
“For most of its history, West Point has evaluated cadets based on merit and achievement,” the group said in its complaint, filed Tuesday in the Southern District of New York. But that has changed, the group argued, over the past few decades.
“Instead of admitting prospective cadets based on objective metrics and leadership potential, West Point focused on race,” the complaint says, alleging the academy’s practices violate the Fifth Amendment. No less strict than the Equal Protection Clause binding the federal government and the states.
Any decision in the case will apply to other service academies as well.
A West Point spokeswoman said the academy would not comment on the case “to protect the integrity of its decision for all parties.”
The complaint renews a long-running debate over whether national security depends on allowing military academies to use racial preferences to create a pipeline of enlisted troops and officers that reflect the demographic makeup of the population.
The 2003 decision in Grutter v. This argument was a feature of Supreme Court cases prior to Bollinger.
An amicus brief filed in that case by former top officers and civilian military leaders argued that the percentage of officers who served in the Vietnam War that were African American was so small — only 3 percent by the end of the war — that it hurt morale and was high. Racial tension in the ranks.
During oral arguments before the Supreme Court in the Harvard and North Carolina cases, U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Preloger said, “For the United States military, as I have explained, a multi-officer force is an important national security imperative.”
In its complaint, Students for Fair Admissions argued that this view, rooted in the specifics of the Vietnam War — an unpopular war fought by draftees — no longer applies.
A group of veterans filed in support of the plaintiffs in the Harvard case that the makeup of the military has changed significantly since the Vietnam War. As of 2020, 27 percent of military officers were from ethnic minorities, and 12.3 percent were black—only 1 percent less than the black share of the national population. The army is now all-volunteer, with no draft procedure.
The complaint uses a recent Supreme Court decision as a road map. For example, the court faulted Harvard and North Carolina for racial homogenization and lack of meaningful endpoints to their affirmative action programs, and so does West Point.
According to an amicus brief filed by the Biden administration in support of Harvard and North Carolina, white service members make up 53 percent of the military as a whole, but 73 percent of officers; Black service members make up 18 percent of the active force but 8 percent of officers. One in five come from service academies.
According to West Point’s website, 10 percent of the newly enrolled class of 2027 will be black, 11 percent Hispanic, 14 percent Asian American and 1 percent Native American.
In the all-volunteer military, seeking parity between the officer corps and the enlisted corps is an ever-shifting goal, which “tantamounts to a declaration that West Point will never stop using race in admissions,” the complaint says. Claiming that equality is needed to foster trust “relies on crude and childish stereotypes.”
Still others said it was too easy to dismiss racial strife within the military as a solved problem.
John W., a 1994 West Point graduate and professor of U.S. military history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Hall said, “The U.S. military was relatively ahead of the rest of society in implementing the diversity, equity and inclusion programs we have today.” . “There is considerable risk in rolling back those policies.”