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Students For Fair Admissions, the conservative group that earlier this year won a U.S. Supreme Court ban on affirmative action programs in higher education, is now suing the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The lawsuit seeks to eliminate all racial considerations in the service academy’s admissions program.
Last June, in its landmark opinion banning affirmative action at colleges and universities, the Supreme Court explicitly declined to extend its ban to military academies, at least for now. The court said the “special considerations” raised by the military were never considered by lower courts.
The military has long maintained that the nation’s security depends on having a diverse officer corps ready to lead an increasingly diverse fighting force. He learned this lesson the hard way during the Vietnam War, when racial tensions caused serious problems between the largely white officer corps and the heavily minority enlisted men.
More than 300,000 black Americans served in Vietnam. Despite making up only about 12 percent of the U.S. population, black service members made up 16.3 percent of the armed forces and as many as 25 percent of enlisted men in the military, but only 2 percent of officers across all branches. .
The Department of Defense ultimately concluded that the lack of minorities in the officer corps “threaten the integrity and performance of the military.” And since the Vietnam War, military academies have aggressively addressed this problem by taking race, along with other qualities, into account when determining who to admit.
Admissions systems at military academies are very different from those at civilian institutions, with members of Congress, the vice president, and the president all playing a role in recommending candidates for admission.
But now Fair Admission students, the same group that successfully sued Harvard and the University of North Carolina, have West Point and the other military academies in their crosshairs. In its complaint filed Tuesday, the company claims that over the past several decades, West Point has abandoned its tradition of merit-based admissions in favor of a system that it says is “race-driven.” West Point has “no justification for resorting to race-based admissions,” the SFAA asserts, adding that the academy is “not constitutionally exempt.”
The suit was filed in federal district court in New York and will likely end up in the Supreme Court next year.