Students for Fair Admissions has filed a federal lawsuit against West Point in the Southern District of New York, claiming that the institution discriminates by adopting quotas for the enrollment of Black, Hispanic, and Asian cadets. The lawsuit alleges that West Point violates the equal protection clause of the Fifth Amendment by giving more weight to racial background than to objective metrics and leadership aptitude. The complaint states that there has been a transformation in the culture at West Point in recent decades, where cadets are now evaluated based on merit and achievement.
Because the Supreme Court’s decision invalidates affirmative action in college admissions, universities, and colleges are pressured to find alternative means of achieving racial and ethnic diversity within their student bodies. The conservative majority on the court struck down admissions policies at the nation’s oldest private and public universities, Harvard and North Carolina. However, West Point and the other military institutions in the country were exempted from this order.
The complaint claims that the demographic composition of the enlisted troops and the general public can be better represented in the ranks of officers if racial preferences are used in admissions to military academies. That only 3% of officers were African American by the end of the Vietnam War is cited as an example of how the precedent is unfairly tied to the past, they say. In 2020, 12.3% of Army officers were Black, only 1% fewer than the Black share of the national population.
There is presently no mandatory military service or draft in the United States. The Department of Defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and others are also named defendants in the complaint. With the recent high court decision, “it must follow that the U.S. military’s higher education institutions must discontinue their race-based policies as well,” said Edward Blum, president of Students for Fair Admissions.
West Point has been actively working to diversify its student body by expanding its recruitment efforts to urban centers like New York City, Atlanta, and Detroit. More than 1,240 students enrolled in the academy located north of New York City this summer, with about 38% being members of a minority group.