More than eighty major U.S. corporations, employing tens of thousands of Americans, have petitioned the Supreme Court to uphold the use of race in college admissions, arguing that such diversity is essential to increasing profits.
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Legal briefs filed on Monday by the companies, including some of the most visible and prosperous in the U.S. economy, set the stage for oral arguments this fall in two cases widely expected to decide the fate of the racially disparate practice.
Companies Petitioned Supreme Court to Uphold Affirmative Action
They told the court that they count on colleges and universities to foster racially diverse student bodies, producing pools of diverse, highly educated job candidates who can meet their business and customer needs.
“The government’s interest in promoting student-body diversity on university campuses remains compelling from a business perspective,” the companies wrote in an amicus, or friend-of-the-court, brief. “The interest in promoting student-body diversity at America’s universities has, if anything, grown in importance.”
American Express, United Airlines, American Airlines, Apple, Intel, Bayer, General Electric, Kraft Heinz, Microsoft, Verizon, Procter & Gamble, and Starbucks are just a few of the companies that have signed on.
The companies argued that diversity programs based on race are more than just a moral imperative and essential to their bottom lines, pointing to statistics and studies showing America is becoming more diverse.
They argued that if colleges and universities across the country were forbidden to take race into account when recruiting students, it would inhibit efforts by businesses to create diverse workforces.
In a separate brief, eight of the most prominent American science and technology companies, including DuPont and Gilead Sciences, argued that campuses with a wide range of racial and ethnic backgrounds are better equipped to foster the next generation of groundbreaking thinkers.
“If universities are not educating a diverse student body, then they are not educating many of the best,” they wrote, urging the court not to strike down affirmative action. “Today’s markets require capitalizing on the racial and other diversity among us … Those efforts, in turn, contribute to the broader health of our nation’s economy.”
The Supreme Court has ruled in a series of cases beginning in 1978 that schools may consider applicants’ racial backgrounds among many others but that they may not use quotas or formulas to ensure a diverse student body.
In her 2003 opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor argued that “the path to leadership must be visibly open to talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity” if the country produces leaders who are respected by the populace.
Harvard University, the oldest private college in the United States, and the University of North Carolina, the oldest public state university in the United States, both use race as a factor in undergraduate admissions, and a conservative student group is asking the court to overturn that precedent.
Students for Fair Admissions claims that Harvard has discriminated against Asian-American applicants by rejecting them at a higher rate than other applicants, violating Supreme Court precedent and the student’s constitutional rights.
Those arguments have been shot down in two lower federal courts.
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