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SFFA’s complaint against UNC-Chapel Hill followed a 2013 Supreme Court opinion in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. In that opinion, the court reaffirmed its long-standing position that any school’s use of race or ethnicity in admissions is subject to “strict scrutiny” and must be narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state interest. In Fisher, the court held that strict scrutiny “imposes on the university the ultimate burden of demonstrating, before turning to racial classifications, that available, workable race-neutral alternatives do not suffice.”

The opinion says a university must demonstrate its admissions processes ensure that each applicant is evaluated as an individual and not in a way that makes race or ethnicity the defining feature of the application.

SFFA contended that UNC-Chapel Hill and “most competitive universities” do not comply with the Supreme Court’s instructions.

After an eight-day trial, a federal district court ruled in favor of UNC-Chapel Hill in October 2021. The trial court issued a 155-page opinion that concluded, after applying the law to the facts and evidence, that our undergraduate admissions process complied with precedent reaffirmed as recently as 2016 by the U.S. Supreme Court. (Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin)

SFFA sought no monetary damages from UNC-Chapel Hill. SFFA aimed to force a change in our admissions policy and to overturn existing U.S. Supreme Court precedent.