How long will military academies remain exempt from the Supreme Court's affirmative action ruling?

An organization that previously fought against affirmative action at Harvard and the University of North Carolina has set its sights on new targets: military academies.

In a recent decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the consideration of race in college admissions violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause. However, they explicitly stated that this ruling does not apply to military academies. These schools were deemed to have “potentially distinct interests” in promoting racial diversity on campus, according to the conservative members of the court.

The organization known as Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), which previously sued Harvard and UNC to end race-conscious admissions, is now exploring the possibility of challenging the use of race in admissions at prestigious military academies like West Point, Annapolis, and the Air Force Academy. These institutions are the most selective among the country’s five federal service academies.

SFFA President Edward Blum reached out to the group’s members, urging them to share any information about students who were rejected or are applying to these academies. The potential success of this effort could have far-reaching implications.

The Supreme Court has historically deferred to the executive branch on matters of national security and acknowledged the significance of a racially diverse officer corps for the military’s missions. A landmark 2003 opinion emphasized the importance of the service academies and ROTC programs as primary sources for diverse officer ranks.

However, the recent decision involving Harvard and UNC did not explicitly address military academies, leaving room for legal challenges. Blum and his allies argue that the service academies are subject to civil rights laws and the Constitution, and thus race should not be a factor in admissions decisions.

The five federal service academies include the United States Military Academy (West Point), the United States Naval Academy (Annapolis), the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA), the United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA), and the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA). These institutions are highly selective, and only a small percentage of applicants are admitted.

Affirmative action has been a topic of debate at these academies due to the need for a racially diverse officer corps in the military. The lack of diversity, particularly in higher-ranking positions, has prompted advocates to argue for the continued use of race-conscious admissions policies.

On the other hand, some Republican lawmakers have targeted diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in the military. Sen. Roger Wicker introduced legislation to prohibit race-based affirmative action in the military, and he plans to extend this prohibition specifically to military academies.

The Supreme Court’s carve-out for military academies has drawn criticism from progressive lawmakers, who view it as arbitrary and insensitive. They argue that if diversity is vital for the military, it should also be a priority for other institutions. The decision has sparked discussions about the broader implications of affirmative action in various sectors of society.