Naval Academy Hit with Latest Lawsuit Opposing Race-Based Admissions as Group Targets Military Schools

by Braxton Taylor

The U.S. Naval Academy is now the latest service academy to be sued over admissions policies that consider race and ethnicity as part of an effort to build diversity within the student body.

Students for Fair Admissions filed suit Thursday in the Northern Division of the U.S. District Court in Maryland, alleging that the Annapolis, Maryland-based school “has no justification for using race-based admissions” and that decisions should be made on merit.

The group sued West Point last month as the first step in its efforts to overturn affirmative action programs at military service academies. It successfully argued in the U.S. Supreme Court against race-based admissions at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, resulting in a ruling that effectively negated the policies for all other institutions of higher learning in the U.S.

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“America’s enemies do not fight differently based on the race of the commanding officer before them; sailors must follow orders without regard to those giving them, and battlefield realities apply equally to sailors without regard to race, ethnicity or national origin,” the group wrote in the suit.

The lawsuit, which can be read online in an upload by CNN, echoes one filed against the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, claiming that it too has violated the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, which bars discrimination in the federal government and requires it to provide equal protection under the law.

Both suits charge that the schools have requirements for how many Black, Hispanic and Asian students should be in each class and have a primary goal to meet those marks based on a concerted effort to broaden diversity in the ranks for a variety of reasons that the group says were struck down in the Supreme Court ruling in June.

In a 6-3 decision, the justices ruled that race could not be used as a consideration in the college admissions process. But they carved out an exception for the military service academies based on a brief submitted to the court nearly 20 years ago that spelled out the unique and “distinct interests” of the academies.

A spokeswoman for the Naval Academy declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying the school does not weigh in on pending litigation as a matter of policy.

The Naval Academy received 14,727 applications for the class that entered this June, nearly 30% of whom were from women. It made offers to 1,379 students — 938 men and 441 women.

The final class size of 805 men and 370 women included 633 white cadets; 177 Hispanics; 90 Blacks; 125 Asian Americans; four Native Americans or Alaskan Natives; seven Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders; 106 persons who identified themselves as being of more than one race; and 18 who declined to answer the question, according to the school.

At West Point, the incoming class this summer — 1,254 cadets — included 38% minority representation, including 127 Black cadets, 137 Hispanic Americans, 170 Asian Americans and 18 Native Americans, according to the school.

The lawsuit against the Naval Academy was filed by Students for Fair Admissions on behalf of two plaintiffs who are not named in the case, a white male and an Asian male. Both were under the age of 23 and nominated for an appointment, but their applications were rejected.

Whether the group will file suits against the Air Force Academy, the Coast Guard Academy or the Merchant Marine Academy remains to be seen. Reserve Officer Training Corps units at civilian institutions also were exempted from the Supreme Court decision and also may be subject to suit.

Edward Blum, president of Students for Fair Admissions, did not respond to a request for comment by publication.

Shortly after the Supreme Court announced its decision in June, the Defense Department issued a statement on the ruling saying it would evaluate its implications.

But Pentagon officials including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin — the first Black person to hold that position — have spoken frequently on the importance of boosting diversity in the ranks and the officer corps and adamantly defend their efforts to promote diversity in the armed forces.

“We rely on a pipeline of highly qualified American patriots from all walks of life and all backgrounds, which is crucial for our national security,” the Pentagon statement said.

— Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Military.com.

Related: Advocacy Group Targets Race Consideration in Military Academy Admissions

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