Civil rights

West Point Faces Lawsuit Over Alleged Racial Bias in Admissions

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West Point Faces Lawsuit Over Alleged Racial Bias in Admissions

The iconic U.S. Military Academy at West Point finds itself in the crosshairs of a much-anticipated civil lawsuit that comes on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision earlier this year in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard. The same non-profit organization, Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), has now launched a legal challenge against the prestigious institution, alleging that its admissions process is racially biased. The lawsuit, filed on September 19, 2023, in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, White Plains Division, is a significant development in the ongoing national debate on affirmative action and race-conscious admissions policies.

The SFFA, in its complaint, argues that West Point's admissions process has shifted from a merit-based system to one heavily influenced by race. The Plaintiff alleges that the Academy openly publishes racial composition 'goals' and admits that race is a determinative factor for hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants.

"West Point has deviated from its historical approach of evaluating cadets based on merit and achievement," the complaint reads. "Instead, it now focuses on race in its admissions process, openly publishing racial composition 'goals' and admitting that race is determinative for hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants."

The lawsuit targets not only West Point but also the United States Department of Defense, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth, Lieutenant General Steven Gilland, the Superintendent of the United States Military Academy, and Lieutenant Colonel Rance Lee, the Director of Admissions for the Academy.

The crux of the lawsuit is the claim that West Point's race-based admissions policy violates the Constitution. The SFFA argues that other public institutions of higher education have been found to be in violation of the Constitution for using similar policies. The organization seeks a declaration that West Point's admissions policy is unlawful and an injunction against its continued use.

The legal basis for the SFFA's challenge is the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, which prohibits the federal government from denying equal protection of the laws. The SFFA argues that West Point's admissions policy discriminates against applicants based on race, violating this constitutional principle.

The lawsuit also challenges the notion of blind judicial deference to the military on questions of racial discrimination. The SFFA asserts that the army should not be exempt from constitutional scrutiny simply because of its unique societal role.

"The military is not exempt from the Bill of Rights," the complaint states. "Indeed, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that 'our citizens in uniform may not be stripped of basic rights simply because they have doffed their civilian clothes.'"

The SFFA's lawsuit against West Point is a significant development in the ongoing national debate on affirmative action and race-conscious admissions policies. If successful, it could have far-reaching implications for other military academies and public institutions of higher education that employ similar admissions policies.

The lawsuit seeks both a declaratory judgment and several injunctions against the Academy. Specifically, the SFFA asks the court to declare the Academy's current admissions policy unlawful and enjoin its continued use.

The outcome of this case will undoubtedly create far-reaching implications for the future of affirmative action and race-conscious admissions policies in the United States in the country's public and private institutions. It is a certainty that an outcome in favor of SFFA will lead to additional, similar lawsuits against the other service academies.

This case's outcome could also affect the relationship between the judicial branch and the nation's military and the amount of deference the former should give to the decisions and policies of the latter.

As the nation continues to grapple with issues of racial inequality and social justice, the debate over the role of race in college admissions is likely to remain a hot-button issue.

Case Facts

  • Status:
    Lawsuit Filed
  • Case Number:
    7:23-cv-08262
  • Filing Date:
    September 19, 2023
  • Jurisdiction:
    U.S. District Courts
  • State:
    New York
  • Court:
    New York Southern District
  • Plaintiff:
    Students for Fair Admissions
  • Defendant:
    The United States Military Academy at West Point; The United States Department of Defense
  • Plaintiff Firm:
    Consovoy McCarthy PLLC
  • Defendant Firm:
  • Claims Administrator:
Contributors
Kevin Salzman, Esq.
Kevin Salzman, Esq.
Reporter and Licensed Attorney
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