University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Faces Legal Battle over Race-Based Admissions

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is facing a legal battle over the way the school allegedly considers race in admissions, as evidence recently entered in a pending lawsuit points to university staff defending the use of race-based admissions, discussing whether applicants are “brown,” among other topics.

The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill) is facing a pending lawsuit from Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), a group alleging that school officials closely monitor race while considering applicants in their admissions process.

Online chat and email correspondence among admissions staff was entered as evidence last month in a federal court case filed by SFFA, according to a report by Politico.

“Give these brown babies a shot at these merit $$” wrote one staffer in an online chat.

“Can we get excited for this brown — boy who’s being raised by his grandfather, wants to become a surgeon, #2 in his class?” wrote an admissions official in another chat.

“If its brown and above a 1300 put them in for merit/Excel,” read a comment in a third chat, referring to the university’s financial aid.

The written conversations among university staff is part of a plethora of online correspondence viewed as evidence in the lawsuit regarding UNC-Chapel Hill’s alleged race-based admissions.

SFFA also alleges that UNC-Chapel Hill is excluding white and Asian applicants in favor of less qualified individuals belonging to different races.

In court filings, SFFA attorneys say “readers are keenly focused on the applicant’s race,” but UNC-Chapel Hill Provost for Enrollment and Undergraduate Admissions Steve Farmer claims that the online correspondence does not “reflect Carolina’s values or our admissions process.”

“We only consider race or ethnicity as one of a multitude of factors,” said Farmer in a statement, “If a student chooses to share that information on the standard Common Application, as is consistent with the law.”

“Our admissions staff receive rigorous training on how to read and discuss applications and follow written guidelines,” added Farmer.

In another chat among university employees, an official mentioned an applicant with “perfect 2400 SAT All 5 on AP one B in 11th.”

“Brown?!” an official responded.

“Heck no,” the first individual replied, “Asian.”

“Of course,” the second official wrote, “Still impressive.”

An executive director at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, David Hawkins, said that while the language is not “ideal,” he believes there is likely to be “a much deeper conversation about how the student fits in at all and whether they can succeed.”

SFFA has also been involved in a lawsuit against Harvard University, alleging that the Ivy-League school discriminates against Asian-American applicants.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo and on Instagram.


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