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Project October 11, 2022

Can Race Be a Factor in College Admissions? The Supreme Court Reconsiders Affirmative Action

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The Supreme Court is considering two cases involving colleges’ use of race as a factor in choosing a diverse student body. For decades, the Court has upheld this type of affirmative action, most recently in a 2016 ruling. Now, in one case on the Court’s docket, Harvard is accused of discriminating against Asian Americans. A second case, against the University of North Carolina, argues that the university gave unfair preference to Black, Native, and Hispanic students, putting white and Asian applicants at a disadvantage. In both cases, the universities have defended their admissions practices, citing past Supreme Court rulings that support the use of race as a factor. A decision in these two new cases could come in the spring of 2023.

In this short documentary—part of a collaboration with WCNY and The Hechinger Report—Retro Report lays out the deeply personal nature of the debate while looking back at an important test case in 2003. There, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor cast the crucial vote to uphold such policies despite her concerns about the unintended consequences that might flow from them.

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