The group, which won a major Supreme Court victory against affirmative action in June, argues that the court’s ruling banning race-conscious college admissions should also apply to the nation’s military academies. , sued the United States Military Academy at West Point on Tuesday.
The group, Students for Fair Admissions, was the driving force behind the Supreme Court’s lawsuit to end race-based admissions at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, a decision that disrupted college admissions programs across the country. Country.
However, the court specifically excluded military academies, including West Point, the Naval Academy, and the Air Force Academy, from the ruling because affirmative action in college admissions was inconsistent with the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in a footnote to the majority opinion that the court did not intend to make a decision either way regarding military academies because of the “different benefits that military academies may provide.” wrote.
The footnote opened the door for new lawsuits, and student groups seeking fair admissions embraced it.
“For most of its history, West Point has evaluated cadets based on ability and performance,” the group said in a complaint filed Tuesday in the Southern District of New York. However, the group argued that the situation has changed in the past few decades.
“Instead of accepting prospective cadets based on objective criteria and leadership potential, West Point focuses on race,” the complaint states, adding that the academy is under the Fifth Amendment. They are accused of engaging in acts that violate the . It is federally governed and as strict as the Equal Protection Clause, which binds each state. ”
Any decision in this case would likely apply to other military academies as well.
A West Point spokesperson said the academy would not comment on the lawsuit “to protect the integrity of the outcome for all parties.”
The complaint argues that national security depends on whether military academies are allowed to exploit racial preferences to develop a pipeline of officers that reflects the demographics of the enlisted corps and the nation as a whole. This has reignited a long-standing debate about whether or not there is.
This argument has been a feature of past Supreme Court precedent, going back at least as far as Glatter v. Bollinger, the 2003 decision upholding race-based admissions at the University of Michigan Law School, and up until this year, the leading precedent on affirmative action. It became.
Court briefs filed by former senior officers and civilian leaders in the case say African-Americans made up a very small percentage of military officers who served in the Vietnam War, only 3 percent by the end of the war, and morale was in jeopardy. claimed to be impaired and exalted. Racial tensions within the ranks.
“As we have explained, having a diverse officer corps is a critical national security imperative for the U.S. military,” he said during oral arguments before the Supreme Court in the Harvard University v. North Carolina case. , said U.S. Attorney General Elizabeth Preloger.
The Students for Fair Admissions group said in its complaint that this view was rooted in the specific circumstances of the Vietnam War, an unpopular war fought by conscripted soldiers, and no longer applies. .
A court brief filed by a group of veterans in support of the plaintiffs in the Harvard suit notes that the makeup of the military has changed significantly since the Vietnam War. As of 2020, 27 percent of Army officers were racial minorities and 12.3 percent were Black, which was only about 1 percentage point lower than the share of Black people in the national population. The military is currently an all-volunteer force, with no conscription.
The complaint uses recent Supreme Court decisions as a roadmap. For example, the court accused Harvard University and the University of North Carolina of racial stereotyping and failing to set meaningful goals for their affirmative action programs, and the complaint similarly accuses West Point University.
White service members make up 53 percent of all active-duty military personnel but 73 percent of officers, according to a court brief filed by the Biden administration in support of Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. Black service members make up 18% of active duty soldiers, but 8% of officers. Approximately one in five police officers graduate from a military academy.
According to West Point’s website, the incoming Class of 2027 is approximately 10 percent Black, 11 percent Hispanic, 14 percent Asian American, and 1 percent Native American.
In an all-volunteer military, the pursuit of equality between the officer and enlisted corps is an ever-changing goal, and “West Point declares it will never stop using race in admissions.” ,” the complaint states, adding: The argument that equality is necessary to foster trust “relies on crude and infantilizing stereotypes.”
Some said it was too easy to dismiss racial tensions in the military as a solved problem.
“The U.S. military was relatively ahead of the rest of society in implementing what we today would call diversity, equity, and inclusion programs,” said the 1994 West Point graduate and University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate. American military history professor John W. Hall is sad. . “Revoking these policies carries considerable risk.”