September 8, 2023
How the Affirmative Action Exemption for Military Academies Exploits Students of Color
By Peter Lucas
“Military recruiters will find a way to use this decision to convince young people that they are offering them the best path to a college education.”
It has been three months since the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in the Students for Fair Admissions v. Havard case, declaring that race-conscious admissions were unconstitutional. For millions of high school seniors like ourselves ready to apply for college this fall, this means that there won’t be a box to indicate race on the application.
However, the focus on the college admissions process has left some details of the SFFA v. Harvard decision undiscussed, specifically the exception made for military academies. The exception appears in a vague footnote by Chief Justice John Roberts in the majority opinion that outlines how military academies have “potentially distinct interests.” Before the decision, current and former military officials signed the amicus curiaerequesting the court to take into account the importance of race-conscious admissions at military colleges and service academies for reasons of “national security.”
“[The] footnote in the opinion indicated that the ruling did not apply to military academies, at least for now, because they might have different, untested legal justifications for using race than Harvard did,” said Omar Syed, an attorney who has 15 years of experience at the collegiate level and is currently the general counsel and vice president at Rice University. “If a military academy is sued for using race as a factor, it will likely justify this tactic as a national security imperative, as the Department of Justice’s lawyer argued before the Supreme Court.”