The saga over the use of race in selecting new college entrants that began with the Supreme Court’s famous ruling in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke nearly four decades ago now has a new chapter — and it is intended to be the final one. Two lawsuits, filed Monday in federal courts against two major universities, are crafted to eventually put before the Supreme Court an explicit plea to overrule Bakke and later decisions on the issue.
The lawsuits are, in a way, sequels to the Court’s ruling last year in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin — a case that is itself on the way back to the Supreme Court — but their goal is a more sweeping one than the one advanced so far in the Fisher case.
Harvard University — ironically, the same institution that had provided an affirmative action model that the Supreme Court embraced in the Bakke case — is one of the targets of the new challenges. The other lawsuit names the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“Given what is occurring at Harvard and at other schools,” the lawsuit filed in Boston argued, “the proper response is the outright prohibition of racial preferences in university admissions — period. Allowing this issue to be litigated in case after case will only perpetuate the hostilities that proper consideration of race is designed to avoid.”