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A timeline of lawsuits challenging admissions policies at Harvard and UNC

Harvard students celebrating at commencement in May 2019 on Harvard Yard.Lane Turner/Globe Staff

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will again weigh whether universities may consider the race of applicants when trying to build diverse student bodies. The court will examine examine admissions policies at Harvard University as well as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Here is a timeline of the two cases.

Nov. 17, 2014: A group called Students for Fair Admissions files a lawsuit claiming Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policy discriminates against Asian-American applicants in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The group also sues UNC Chapel Hill, alleging it fails to give adequate consideration to race-neutral admissions. .


Oct. 2015: In a brief filed in the case, current and prospective minority students at Harvard express support for Harvard’s motion to dismiss the case.

Dec. 2016: Students represented by a group called Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a non-profit legal aid and civil rights organization, join the brief defending Harvard’s admissions policies.

Sept. 30, 2019: US District Court Judge Allison Burroughs rules in favor of Harvard, and upholds the school’s race-conscious admissions on all accounts. In a closely watched case Burroughs says that while Harvard could improve its admissions process with more training and monitoring, it is legally sound and uses race only in a narrow way.

October 2019: Students for Fair Admissions appeals the court’s decision in favor of Harvard to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. The court issues an order for the two parties and testifying students to submit briefs over Spring 2020.

Nov. 12, 2020: A panel for the Court of Appeals affirms the decision made by Burroughs, delivering a resounding legal victory for Harvard.

Feb. 25, 2021: Students for Fair Admissions files a petition for a writ of certiorari, a court process to seek judicial review of a decision of a lower court, with the Supreme Court.


Oct. 17, 2021: US District Judge Loretta C. Biggs finds that UNC-Chapel Hill had not shown illegal bias against White and Asian American applicants while taking race into account for the selection of an undergraduate class.

Monday: The Supreme Court agrees to take up the Havard and UNC lawsuits.

Grace Gilson can be reached at grace.gilson@globe.com.