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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — North Carolina's flagship public university is defending its use of race in admitting students and wants a lawsuit filed against it by a group representing past and potential applicants and parents to be dismissed.
The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill filed written arguments in federal court on Friday, as did lawyers for the organization called Students for Fair Admissions that sued in 2014.
The plaintiffs contend the university's practices are unconstitutional and fail to comply with U.S. Supreme Court guidance from a University of Texas case, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported.
"UNC's use of race is the opposite of individualized; UNC uses race mechanically to ensure the admission of the vast majority of underrepresented minorities," the group's legal brief says.
Chancellor Carol Folt and Provost Bob Blouin, in a campus-wide message Friday, said the school's admissions policies and practices comply with the letter and spirit of the law. The university also has a longstanding commitment to diversity, the school's brief said.
"In its academic judgment, the university has determined that pursuing the educational benefits of diversity is integral to fulfilling its mission to prepare the next generation of leaders," the school's filing read.
Students for Fair Admissions also sued Harvard University over its admissions policies, and a trial in the case wrapped up in November. The judge, however, has yet to rule in the closely watched case.
In the Texas matter, the Supreme Court said race can only be considered in college admissions if it's used in a narrowly tailored way to achieve a compelling government interest. The court also said universities should first try "workable race-neutral alternatives." UNC says such alternatives don't promote the university's diversity goals.
Edward Blum, president of Students for Fair Admissions, said the group's filing contain calculations from an expert witness saying an Asian-American male applicant from North Carolina with a 25 percent chance of getting into the school would have his probability increase to about 67 percent if he were Latino. It would rise to more than 90 percent if he were African-American.
But UNC-Chapel Hill, which wants U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs to hold a hearing on its dismissal motion, says there are no racial or ethnic quotas in the admissions process, and race is one of many factors considered.
"No reasonable trier of fact could conclude on this record that the university uses quotas, engages in racial set asides or point allocations, or intentionally discriminates against applicants based on race," the school's brief said.
More than 4,300 first-year students entered UNC-Chapel Hill last fall, with over 43,000 first-year applications filed.