While the Supreme Court struck down race-conscious admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, it exempted military schools. A footnote to the high court’s June opinion acknowledged that the United States government asserted that “race-based admissions programs further the compelling interests of our nation’s military academies.”
The justices said that because no military academies were parties, the opinion did not address the issue of admissions to those schools “in light of the potentially distinct interests that military academies may present.”
SFFA, however, argues that the school has “no justification for resorting to race-based admissions” and that, because it is illegal at other universities, West Point “is not exempt from the Constitution.” SFFA President Edward Blum also launched a website called West Point Not Fair, which asks students if they have been rejected from West Point, the Naval Academy or the Air Force Academy .
“Over the years, the courts have been cognizant of the unique role of the military in the life of our nation and the special considerations that arise from it,” Blum said in a statement. “However, no level of deference justifies these polarizing and hated racial classifications and preferences in admissions to West Point or any of our military academies.”
What’s in the lawsuit: The 29-page lawsuit was filed in the White Plains Division of the Southern District Court of New York. The trial delves into the admissions process at West Point, which trains future military officers and is highly selective. The New York academy enrolls about 1,200 to 1,300 cadets in each class, according to court filings, and admits fewer than 10 percent of applicants.
Applicants are required to pass medical examinations and a physical fitness test, and obtain an appointment from a member of Congress, the vice president, or the president. Next, officially nominated prospective students must be accepted by the West Point admissions office.
SFFA’s lawsuit challenges racial preferences used by the admissions office and the non-discrimination policy on its website which says “the United States Military Academy is fully committed to affirmative action.”
West Point uses racial balance for incoming classes and sets criteria for the number of African-American, Hispanic or Asian students who will be admitted, the SFFA lawsuit claims. The court filing included the school’s class composition chart that breaks down enrollment by race and total class size.
“West Point makes every effort to achieve these racial balance goals,” the lawsuit says, adding that the former admissions director once said: “'(a) few years ago, all African-American applicants Qualified Americans were (sic) offered admission to West Point, but the class composition goal was still lacking.
What SFFA wants: SFFA contends that West Point’s admissions practices violate the Fifth Amendment, which contains an equal protection principle that binds the federal government. It also lists two unnamed white members who are “ready and able” to apply to West Point once race is stopped as a determining factor.
The group asked the court to declare the institution’s use of race unconstitutional and to place a preliminary injunction to prevent West Point from considering or knowing an applicant’s race when making admission decisions.
“For most of its history, West Point has evaluated cadets based on merit and achievement,” the lawsuit states. “America’s enemies do not fight differently based on the race of the commander facing them, soldiers must follow orders regardless of the skin color of those giving them, and the realities of the battlefield s ‘apply equally to all soldiers, regardless of race, ethnicity or national origin.’