The U.S. Naval Academy, one of the nation’s most prestigious military institutions, is being sued by a conservative group that claims it discriminates against white and Asian American applicants based on their race. The lawsuit, filed on Thursday in a federal court in Maryland, challenges the academy’s affirmative action policy and seeks to end its use of race as a factor in admissions decisions.
A long-standing battle against affirmative action
The group behind the lawsuit, Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), is not new to the legal fight against affirmative action. Founded by Edward Blum, a prominent opponent of race-conscious policies, SFFA has sued several universities over their admissions practices, including Harvard and the University of North Carolina. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of SFFA and declared that colleges and universities could no longer take race into consideration as a specific basis for granting admissions, except for U.S. military service academies.
The court’s decision was a major blow to affirmative action supporters, who argue that race-based policies are necessary to promote diversity and address historical inequalities. However, the court also left open the possibility that military academies may have “potentially distinct interests” that justify their use of race in admissions, noting that the issue was not addressed in the cases before the court.
The case against the Naval Academy
SFFA’s lawsuit against the Naval Academy is the second one it has filed against a military school in recent weeks. In September, it sued the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, alleging that it also violates the constitution by considering applicants’ races. Both lawsuits claim that the academies have no justification for using race-based admissions and that they harm white and Asian American applicants who are otherwise qualified.
According to the lawsuit against the Naval Academy, the school “openly acknowledges that race is determinative for some applicants” and that it provides a racial “benefit” to some applicants but not to others. The lawsuit cites data from the academy’s website that shows that black and Hispanic applicants have higher acceptance rates than white and Asian American applicants, despite having lower average test scores and grades.
The lawsuit also argues that the academy’s use of race does not serve any compelling interest that would outweigh its discriminatory effects. It contends that the academy’s stated goals of achieving diversity and preparing future naval officers for a diverse society are not sufficient to justify its policy. It further claims that there are race-neutral alternatives that could achieve the same goals, such as considering socioeconomic status or geographic diversity.
The academy’s response
The Naval Academy has not yet responded to the lawsuit, but it has previously defended its admissions policy as lawful and beneficial. In a statement issued in June, after the Supreme Court’s ruling on affirmative action, the academy said that it “remains committed to fostering an inclusive environment where every midshipman can thrive.”
The statement also said that the academy “considers many factors when evaluating candidates for admission, including academic performance, leadership potential, physical aptitude, character and motivation.” It added that “race is one of many factors considered as part of our holistic review process.”
The academy’s website states that its mission is to “develop midshipmen morally, mentally and physically” and to “graduate leaders who are dedicated to a career of naval service.” It also says that its vision is to “be an exemplary institution of higher education with an enduring commitment to excellence in education, research and service.”
The academy, located in Annapolis, Maryland, was founded in 1845 and is one of the oldest service academies in the country. It offers four-year undergraduate programs in various fields of engineering, science and humanities. It also provides professional military training and education for its students, who are known as midshipmen. Upon graduation, midshipmen are commissioned as officers in the U.S. Navy or Marine Corps.