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UNC faces lawsuit over affirmative action from group suing Harvard

Harvard isn't the only university taking heat for its admission practices—Duke's neighbor eight miles down the road is now also under the microscope.

Students for Fair Admissions sued The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, accusing it of unfairly using race when considering applicants and thereby harming white and Asian-American applicants. The same organization has also sued Harvard University, alleging that Asian-American students were discriminated against in the admissions process.

SFFA has built their case against UNC around expert witness Peter Arcidiacono, Duke professor of economics. The group cited Arcidiacono's research, which analyzed a North Carolinian Asian-American male applicant with a 25 percent chance of getting into UNC. His research showed that a Latino student with the same profile would have a 67 percent chance of admission and an African-American applicant would have more than a 90 percent chance. 

"UNC's use of race is the opposite of individualized; UNC uses race mechanically to ensure the admission of the vast majority of underrepresented minorities," the plaintiffs alleged in their brief.

Arcidiacono was also the expert witness for SFFA in Harvard case. A primary difference between the Harvard and UNC cases are that Harvard is a private institution while UNC is public. North Carolina law mandates that no more than 18 percent of admitted students can come from outside the state.

UNC denies the allegations, arguing in their brief that they take race into account but they still consider applicants holistically. Chancellor Carol Folt and Provost Bob Blouin sent a message across campus saying the university's admission practices "comply with the spirit and letter of the law" and they will defend against the case "vigorously."

UNC defended its policies and the value of a diverse student body in its court filing.

"In its academic judgment, the university has determined that pursuing the educational benefits of diversity is integral to fulfilling its mission to prepare the next generation of leaders," the brief read. 

The Harvard case has mostly wrapped up, but the judge may not issue a ruling until June. The case could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court regardless of the outcome.

The Supreme Court has upheld universities' rights to factor in race as a part of their admissions process in prior cases, but only if "it's used in a narrowly tailored way to achieve a compelling government interest."


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