West Point Military Academy Sued Over Race-Based Admissions

A conservative advocacy group has sued U.S. Military Academy at West Point, alleging its admissions policy is unconstitutional as its partly based on race.
West Point Military Academy Sued Over Race-Based Admissions
Cadets walk into Michie Stadium during West Point's graduation ceremony in West Point, N.Y., on May 27, 2023. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Tom Ozimek

A conservative advocacy group that won a Supreme Court case against race-based enrollment policies at Harvard is now suing the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, alleging that the academy's admissions policy is unconstitutional as it's partly based on race.

Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) filed a complaint (pdf) on Sept. 19 at a federal court in New York, arguing that West Point uses race and ethnicity as factors in admissions, violating the Fifth Amendment's equal-protection principle.

The group wants the court to find the use of race in admissions at West Point unconstitutional and impose race-blind candidate evaluation procedures.

"West Point has no justification for using race-based admissions," the group wrote in the complaint. "Those admissions are unconstitutional for all other public institutions of higher education. The Academy is not exempt from the Constitution."

More Details

SFFA is the same group that won a case before the Supreme Court on June 29, reviving a strict interpretation of the 14th Amendment to make clear that equal treatment under the law bars discrimination based on race, even when that discrimination gives a leg up to groups considered "marginalized" or "underrepresented" in public life.

Heartened by its recent win against Harvard and the University of North Carolina, the group has set its sights on purging the U.S. military—and West Point—from what it sees as woke policies.

In its latest legal action, SFFA argued that, for most of its history, the West Point Academy evaluated cadets based on achievement and merit—but that has now changed.

“Instead of admitting future cadets based on objective metrics and leadership potential, West Point focuses on race,” the group wrote in the lawsuit. “In fact, it openly publishes its racial composition ‘goals,’ and its director of admissions brags that race is wholly determinative for hundreds if not thousands of applicants.”

But "America's enemies do not fight differently based on the race of the commanding officer opposing them" and "soldiers must follow orders without regard to the skin color of those giving them," the group added.

However, West Point sets benchmarks for the percentage of each class that should be filled by people of different races and ethnicities, and it "meticulously tracks its compliance with those figures down to a tenth of a percentage point," the group said.

West Point has nearly 4,400 undergraduates. Of these, 2,693 are white, 483 black or African American, 545 Hispanic/Latino, 414 Asian, and 38 American Indian or Alaska Native, according to October 2022 data from West Point (pdf).

SFFA wants the court to declare West Point's admissions policy unlawful and block it, arguing that the academy "discriminates based on race."

"Over the years, courts have been mindful of the military's unique role in our nation's life and the distinctive considerations that come with it. However, no level of deference justifies these polarizing and disliked racial classifications and preferences in admissions to West Point or any of our service academies," Edward Blum, president of SFFA, said in a statement.

Asked for comment, the West Point public affairs office told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement: “The U.S. Military Academy does not comment on pending litigation.”

On its website, West Point says that its Military Equal Opportunity (MEO) program "formulates, directs, and sustains a comprehensive effort to maximize human potential and to ensure fair treatment for all soldiers based solely on merit, performance, and potential in support of readiness. MEO philosophy is based on fairness, justice, and equity."
West Point pledges to "ensure equal opportunity and fair treatment for all cadets, soldiers, and family members, without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex (gender identity), or sexual orientation and provide an environment free of unlawful discrimination and offensive behavior. "
This comes amid a broader critique that the quality of America's warfighters is being undermined by policies and actions that generally fall under the umbrella of "woke."

The Rise of 'Wokeness'

The rise of "wokeness" in the military has been the subject of increased scrutiny and criticism, with a Navy training video instructing sailors how to use personal pronouns in line with the latest progressive norms so as to create a "safe space for everybody" being one example of that has irked many on the right who insist the military's focus should be on competence and readiness—not pronouns.
Recently, General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, denied in an interview on CNN that the U.S. military had become "too woke."

After admitting that he's "not even sure what that word truly means," he said that America's military is "exceptionally strong."

"It's powerful. It's ready. In fact, our readiness rate is—the way we measure readiness—is better now than they've been in years," he added.

"This military is a lot of things but woke it is not," Mr. Milley said.

However, Mr. Milley acknowledged that there are "some things out there" that "could be fit into that category," referring to "woke."

"But I don't think it certainly is—it is not a broad-brush description of the U.S. military as it exists today," he added.

But some—perhaps even many—would disagree.

"Wokeness in the military has become ingrained," wrote Thomas Spoehr, director of the Center for National Defense at the Heritage Foundation, in an op-ed for The Epoch Times.

"Wokeness in the military is being imposed by elected and appointed leaders in the White House, Congress, and the Pentagon who have little understanding of the purpose, character, traditions, and requirements of the institution they are trying to change," Mr. Spoehr argued.

After listing various ideological policies that have been adopted by the U.S. military—including indoctrinating service members in critical race theory—he said the military is struggling to gain new recruits in adequate numbers and Americans are losing confidence in the military.

"The bottom line is that precious time and money are being poured into woke programs and projects that would be better applied toward making the military more capable," he argued.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who's seeking the Republican nomination for president in 2024, recently flagged the issue as a significant problem and vowed to "rip the woke out of the military and return it to its core mission."
Tom Ozimek is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times. He has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education.