Judge Rules That West Point Can Continue Considering Race As Part Of Admissions During Ongoing Legal Battle
A federal judge on Wednesday ruled the United States Military Academy at West Point can continue to consider race as a factor for admissions, denying a request for a preliminary injunction from the same group that won the landmark Supreme Court case that gutted affirmative action.
By Jamiel Lynch, CNN
(CNN) — A federal judge on Wednesday ruled the United States Military Academy at West Point can continue to consider race as a factor for admissions, denying a request for a preliminary injunction from the same group that won the landmark Supreme Court case that gutted affirmative action.
Students for Fair Admissions, a conservative group, alleged in a 2023 lawsuit West Point’s use of race in admissions was unconstitutional and asked the court to prohibit them from “considering or knowing” an applicant’s race during the admission process.
The preliminary injunction would have prohibited the military academy in New York from considering race during its admissions process while the lawsuit is ongoing. Students for Fair Admissions filed an emergency notice of appeal Wednesday, according to court records.
In June 2023, the Supreme Court ruled colleges and universities could no longer take race into consideration as a specific basis for granting admissions – except for military service academies. It was a significant decision against affirmative action policies, which have focused on improving opportunities for historically excluded minorities.
In that ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts said the Harvard and University of North Carolina admissions programs violated the Equal Protection Clause because they failed to offer “measurable” objectives to justify the use of race. In a footnote, Roberts left open the possibility that there are “potentially distinct interests that military academies may present” in a future case.
In his Wednesday decision regarding West Point, District Judge Philip M. Halpern wrote that while it’s possible the military academy may have to stop considering race like other civilian universities at the conclusion of this case, it’s also possible West Point can prove it has “compelling governmental interests” to conduct its admissions process the way it does.
“To grant a motion of this importance with so much left open would be imprudent,” the judge wrote.
“A full factual record is vital to answering this critical question whether the use of race in the admissions process at West Point furthers compelling governmental interests and whether the government’s use of race is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest,” he added.
“The Court cannot enjoin West Point’s use of race in admissions without a full understanding, informed by a complete factual predicate, as to what exactly are the compelling interests asserted, to whom those compelling interests belong, and how in this specific case they are or are not narrowly tailored to achieve those interests.”
CNN has reached out to Students for Fair Admissions and West Point for comment on the judge’s decision.
West Point has nearly 4,400 undergraduates, 2,693 of whom are White, 483 Black or African American, 545 Hispanic/Latino, 414 Asian and 38 American Indian or Alaska Native, according to October 2022 data from West Point’s website.