Anti-affirmative action group challenges US Naval Academy's admissions policy
PHOTO CAPTION: Underclass midshipmen salute during the national anthem at the U.S. Naval Academy graduation and commissioning ceremony in Annapolis, Maryland, U.S., May 27, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
By Nate Raymond
(Reuters) -The group that successfully challenged race-conscious college admissions policies at the U.S. Supreme Court sued the U.S. Naval Academy on Thursday, its second lawsuit opposing affirmative action in U.S. military academies.
Students for Fair Admissions, founded by affirmative action opponent Edward Blum, filed a federal lawsuit against the Annapolis, Maryland-based Navy school weeks after it launched a similar case against the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Both lawsuits by the Virginia-based nonprofit seek to end an exemption tucked inside the Supreme Court's June ruling that allowed U.S. military academies to continue considering race as a factor in student admissions.
"The Naval Academy has no legal justification for treating midshipman applicants differently by race and ethnicity," Blum said in a statement.
A spokesperson for the Naval Academy declined to comment.
In a ruling powered by its conservative majority, the U.S. Supreme Court in June rejected policies long used by American colleges and universities to increase the number of Black, Hispanic and other minority students on American campuses.
The Supreme Court's invalidation of admissions policies used by Harvard University and the University of North Carolina did not address the consideration of race in admissions at military academies, which Chief Justice John Roberts said had "potentially distinct interests."
Democratic President Joe Biden's administration argued in a brief in that case that "the effectiveness of our military depends on a diverse officer corps that is ready to lead an increasingly diverse fighting force."
A 2020 Defense Department report found Blacks comprised 18% of active military personnel but only 8% of officers. Hispanic service members constitute 19% of active personnel but 8% of officers, the report said.
White service members, by contrast, were 53% of the active force but 73% of officers, the report said.
The administration said the U.S. military academies had concluded is was necessary to consider race in admissions to achieve its goal of building a diverse officer corps.
"The reason those policies are in place is because for a long time, military academies were way weighted toward not allowing people of color or women into the ranks," said Daniel Walker, a U.S. Air Force veteran and member of the Black Veterans Project's board.
But in Thursday's lawsuit, filed in federal court in Baltimore, Blum's group alleged the Naval Academy's admissions practices were discriminatory and violated the principle of equal protection in the U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment.
It argued that rather than focusing on leadership potential and objective metrics, the academy was engaged in a practice of trying to "racially balance" each year's incoming class of midshipmen.
Out of 12,927 applicants for its 2026 class, the academy enrolled 1,184 midshipmen, of which 676 were white, 75 were Black and 117 were Asian. Those numbers closely mirrored the demographics of the 2025 class, Blum's group said.
The lawsuit sought an order barring the academy from considering an applicant's race during admissions.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in BostonEditing by Chris Reese, Lincoln Feast and Cynthia Osterman)