Gorsuch: ‘Holistic’ Admissions Policy Once Used Against Jews

 U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch pointed out Monday that the “holistic” approach used by Harvard University and the University of North Carolina to include race in admissions standards was once used by universities to discriminate against Jews.

The point arose in oral argument in two cases that are testing the Court’s precedent in Bakke (1978) and subsequent cases that allow race to be used in admissions to promote diversity, as long as race is not used in a quota system or a points system resembling quotas.

Justice Gorsuch raised the point with Patrick Strawbridge, the attorney for the plaintiff, Students for Fair Admissions, a non-profit organization that is suing the universities on behalf of Asian American students who argue they are victims of discrimination.

Justice Clarence Thomas — who is known to be skeptical of the use of race in university admissions — raised a similar issue with North Carolina Solicitor General Ryan Park.

“I’ve heard the word ‘diversity’ quite a few times, and I don’t have a clue what it means,” Thomas said.

He challenged Park to describe the educational benefits of racial diversity. Park said that it discourages “groupthink”; Thomas was skeptical.

Gorsuch then repeated the point to Park that he had made earlier with Strawbridge. Park tried to argue that UNC’s approach was not susceptible to the same abuses.

Liberal justices, including Justice Elena Kagan — who was once the dean of Harvard Law School — pushed back against the plaintiffs, questioning whether other students were really disadvantaged by affirmative action, and whether the plaintiff was allowing for the use of other preferential criteria.

The cases are Students for Fair Admission v. President & Fellows of Harvard College, No. 20-1199, and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina, No. 21-707 in the Supreme Court of the United States. 

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