Washington — The anti-affirmative action group behind the pair of cases that led the Supreme Court to strike down race-conscious admissions programs at higher-education institutions has filed a lawsuit against West Point, arguing the service academy unlawfully discriminates against applicants on the basis of race through its admissions policy.

Filed in federal district court in White Plains, New York, the lawsuit from organization Students for Fair Admissions claims that West Point focuses on race when admitting future cadets and engages in racial balancing to meet benchmarks for the portion of African American, Hispanic and Asian students that make up each incoming class. The academy’s use of racial classifications is unconstitutional, the group said, and should be declared unlawful. 

Students for Fair Admissions is asking the court to prohibit West Point from “considering or knowing applicants’ race” when making decisions about admissions.

“West Point has no justification for using race-based admissions,” the group said in its complaint. “Those admissions are unconstitutional for all other public institutions of higher education. The Academy is not exempt from the Constitution.”

The U.S. Military Academy’s public affairs office said it “does not comment on pending litigation.”

The West Point lawsuit

The group said its membership includes two White students who are “ready and able” to apply to West Point, one this fall and the other in 2025. The first student is a high school senior in the upper Midwest who is identified as “Member A,” and the second, identified as “Member B,” is a high school student in the Southeast.

The two students wish to remain anonymous because they fear reprisal from West Point and others if their participation in the lawsuit becomes public, according to the filing.

Students for Fair Admissions argued that unless West Point is ordered to stop using race as a factor in admissions, the race of members A and B will prevent them “from competing for admission on an equal footing.”

“If West Point is allowed to continue making admissions decisions based on applicants’ race, SFFA’s members — including Members A and B and other similarly-situated applicants — will suffer harm because they will be denied the opportunity to compete for a West Point appointment on equal grounds, solely because of their race,” the group claimed.

The lawsuit states that West Point’s purported racial preferences come into play during the second stage of its admissions process, after applicants have passed medical and physical-fitness tests and secured a nomination from a member of Congress, the vice president or president. While West Point has said racial diversity provides educational and military benefits, Students for Fair Admissions argues the academy can achieve a diverse student body through race-neutral means.

“West Point’s status as a military academy does not mean that courts must defer to its conclusory assertions that it needs to employ racial preferences, let alone diminish” constitutional violations, the group claimed.

The Supreme Court affirmative action decision

Students for Fair Admissions’ challenge to West Point’s admissions policies is not unexpected — the organization indicated it was turning its attention to the service academy in August, when it launched a website called “West Point Not Fair” that sought information from prospective or unsuccessful applicants to the service academies.

The call for potential plaintiffs came on the heels of the Supreme Court’s June decision that said colleges and universities could not consider race as a factor in admissions, bringing an end to affirmative action in higher education. The landmark ruling stemmed from two challenges to the race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard College and the University of North Carolina brought by Students for Fair Admissions 

In the majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court’s conservative majority said race-conscious admissions policies could not be reconciled with the Constitution. The programs from Harvard and the University of North Carolina used race in a negative manner and lacked meaningful endpoints, the court found.

In a footnote, Roberts singled out the military academies and effectively exempted them from the Supreme Court’s ruling, noting that the “propriety of race-based admissions systems” was not addressed in the context of the military academies.


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