The Supreme Court heard arguments on cases concerning affirmative action on Monday, revisiting decades of precedent that was upheld by mostly narrow majorities, NPR reports. Affirmative action refers to whether colleges and universities can consider race as a factor when determining admissions.
The challengers of the case are specifically targeting Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, arguing that their diversity policies violate equal protection and disproportionately discriminate against Asian Americans, CNN reports. They are calling for the schools to adopt race-neutral admissions criteria.
Patrick Strawbridge, representing the anti-affirmative action group, argued that while race won't be a factor, a person's application can still point to cultural experiences, to which Justice Elena Kagan responded, "Race is part of the culture and the culture is part of the race, isn't it?"
The question of how different experiences among applicants are to be accounted for arose, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor commenting, "If you're Black, you're more likely to be in an under-resourced school. You are more likely to be taught by teachers who are not as qualified as others," USA Today reports.
Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas has historically been opposed to race-conscious admissions and commented that diversity "seems to mean everything for everyone," and when parents send kids to college, "they don't necessarily send them there to have fun or feel good or anything like that."