Supreme Court Reaffirms Race-Conscious Affirmative Action in College Admissions

Originally posted on Reappropriate.co

The Supreme Court handed down their long-anticipated decision on Fisher v University of Texas II yesterday, eight years after Abigail Fisher (who is White) first filed suit challenging holistic review at the University of Texas. Fisher alleged that the University’s holistic admissions process, which includes race-conscious affirmative action, denied her admission to the school. The Court had previously heard Fisher’s case, and essentially punted it back to the lower courts asking them to take a second look. When the Fifth Circuit again ruled in favour of the University of Texas, the Supreme Court was once again challenged to weigh in.

There was a lot at stake with this decision in the case now known as Fisher II: a decision against the University of Texas’ admissions program could effectively dismantle affirmative action programs across the country.

But, in a 4-3 vote, the Supreme Court elected to reaffirm the Court’s earlier perspectives on affirmative action as outlined in the landmark Grutter case which first explicitly established the “compelling interest” of colleges and universities to address issues of campus diversity through the limited and narrow use of racial information.

Continue reading “Supreme Court Reaffirms Race-Conscious Affirmative Action in College Admissions”

After Fisher: Affirmative Action and Asian American Students

By Michele S. Moses, University of Colorado; Christina Paguyo, Colorado State University, and Daryl Maeda, University of Colorado

After eight years, the Abigail Fisher case finally has been put to rest. In a landmark judgment on June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of race-conscious affirmative action in university admissions.

Abigail Fisher, a white woman, had sued the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) for its race-conscious admissions policy after she was denied admission. She had argued that the university violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Supporters of race-conscious admissions programs are understandably gratified. But has the case resolved the larger moral and political disagreements over affirmative action?

Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, which supports colorblind policies, has already called the decision just “a temporary setback.”

Indeed, over the last 40 years, affirmative action opponents have repeatedly strategized anew after important Supreme Court decisions in favor of affirmative action. They did so after the 1978 decision in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, when the Supreme Court, while allowing race to be one of the factors in choosing a diverse student body, held the use of quotas to be “impermissible.“

And they did so after the 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, when the high court again ruled that race-conscious affirmative action was constitutional.

We are scholars who study affirmative action, race, and diversity in higher education. We believe that the disagreement about affirmative action will not end anytime soon. And it may well center on lawsuits on behalf of Asian-American college applicants.

Here is what is coming next

Through his organization, the Project on Fair Representation, Abigail Fisher’s advisor, Edward Blum, is currently engaged in a lawsuit challenging Harvard University’s race-conscious admissions policy.

What is different about the Harvard lawsuit is that the lead plaintiff in the case is not a white student. The plaintiff is an Asian-American student.

Asian-Americans participate in an Advancing Justice conference.
Advancing Justice Conference, CC BY-NC-SA

“Students for Fair Admissions,” an arm of the Project on Fair Representation, filed a suit against Harvard College on November 17, 2014, on behalf of a Chinese-American applicant who had been rejected from Harvard. The lawsuit charges that Harvard’s admissions policy violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars federally funded entities from discriminating based on race or ethnicity.

The “Harvard University Not Fair” website greets readers with a photo of an Asian-American student accompanied by the following text:

“Were you denied admission to Harvard? It may be because you’re the wrong race.”

How it started

This controversy over how Asian-Americans are being treated in selective college admission was jump-started in 2005, when sociologists Thomas Espenshade and Chang Chung published findings from their study on the effects of affirmative action bans on the racial and ethnic composition of student bodies at selective colleges and universities.

Espenshade and Chung found that if affirmative action were to be eliminated, the acceptance rates for black and Latino applicants would likely decrease substantially, while the acceptance rate for white applicants would increase slightly. But more than that, what they noted was that the acceptance rate for Asian-American applicants would increase the most by far.

As the researchers explained, Asian-American students “would occupy four out of every five seats created by accepting fewer African-American and Hispanic students.”

Such research has been cited to support claims of admissions discrimination against Asian-Americans.

In the complaint against Harvard, Espenshade’s research was cited as evidence of discrimination against Asian-Americans. Specifically, the lawsuit cited research from 2009 in which Espenshade, this time with coauthor Alexandria Radford, found that Asian-American applicants accepted at selective colleges had higher standardized test scores, on average, than other accepted students.

Are elite institutions discriminating against Asian-Americans in their admissions process?
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

These findings, especially that Asian-American applicants seem to need a higher SAT score than white applicants or other applicants of color in order to be admitted to a selective college are being used as proof that elite institutions like Harvard are discriminating against Asian-Americans in their admissions processes.

The picture is more complicated

As we know, selective admissions processes are much more complicated than SAT score data can show. There are many factors that are taken into consideration for college admission.

For example, in the “holistic” admissions processes endorsed by the Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bollinger, standardized text scores are not the only, or even the main, criterion for admission. “Holistic” review takes many relevant factors into account, including academic achievement, of course, but also factors such as a commitment to public service, overcoming difficult life circumstances, achievements in the arts or athletics, or leadership qualities.

So, why would the plaintiff in the Harvard case conclude that the disparities in SAT scores shown by Espenshade and Radford necessarily indicate that Asian-American applicants are being harmed by race-conscious affirmative action?

Legal scholar William Kidder has shown that the way Espenshade and Radford’s findings have been interpreted by affirmative action opponents is not accurate. The interpretation of this research itself rests on the faulty assumption that affirmative action is to blame if an academically accomplished Asian-American applicant gets rejected from an elite institution.

Based on his analysis, Kidder concluded,

“Exaggerated claims about the benefits for APAs [Asian Pacific Americans] of ending affirmative action foster a divisive public discourse in which APAs are falsely portrayed as natural adversaries of affirmative action and the interests of African American and Latinos in particular.”

In our opinion as well, focusing on simplistic ideas about standardized tests as the primary evidence for who “deserves” to be admitted to elite institutions like Harvard may serve to stir up resentment among accomplished applicants who get rejected.

As the “Harvard Not Fair” website and accompanying lawsuit demonstrate, these findings have been used to fuel a politics of resentment among rejected Asian-American applicants.

When speaking with reporters, Espenshade himself has acknowledged that his data are incomplete – given that colleges take myriad factors into account in admissions decisions – and his findings have been overinterpreted and actually do not prove that colleges discriminate against Asian-American applicants.

Are Asian-American students a monolithic group?
Charlie Nguyen, CC BY

Moreover, in using images of Asian-American students to recruit complainants against Harvard and other highly selective institutions of higher education, the Project on Fair Representation relies on the idea that Asian-Americans comprise a monolithic group. In fact, the term “Asian-American” refers to a diversity of Asian ethnicities in the United States, whose educational opportunities and achievements vary widely.

The 2010 census question on race included check boxes for six Asian groups – Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese – along with a box for “Other Asian,” with a prompt for detailed responses such as “Hmong, Laotian, Thai, Pakistani, Cambodian, and so on.”

In addition, by casting plaintiffs as meritorious and deserving of a spot at an elite university, it also conveys the stereotypical received wisdom about Asian-American “model” students who are wronged by race-conscious affirmative action programs.

The Harvard lawsuit comes next

At this time, Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, is pending.

Now that Fisher has been decided, this case is the next front in the divisive politics surrounding race-conscious affirmative action in higher education admissions.

Relevant to the Harvard case is that a civil rights complaint alleging that Princeton University discriminates against Asian-American applicants was dismissed in 2015 after a long federal Office of Civil Rights investigation.

Although public disagreement about the policy continues, affirmative action is an imperfect, but as yet necessary tool that universities can leverage to cultivate robust and diverse spaces where students learn. June 23’s Fisher ruling underscores that important idea.

Related to the coming public discussions about the Harvard lawsuit, we are of the opinion that race-conscious policies like affirmative action need to be supported. The fact is that “Asian-Americans” have diverse social and educational experiences. And many Asian-Americans benefit from affirmative action policies.The Conversation

Michele S. Moses, Professor of Educational Foundations, Policy, and Practice, University of Colorado; Christina Paguyo, Post Doctoral Fellow, Colorado State University, and Daryl Maeda, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, University of Colorado

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

全國亞太裔組織稱讚最高法院在平權法案一案中的決定

亞美公義促進中心(簡稱Advancing Justice)、亞裔美國人法律保護和教育基金會(簡稱AALDEF)及全國亞太裔律師協會(簡稱NAPABA)共同稱讚最高法院今日在“費雪訴德克薩斯大學”(Fisher v. University of Texas)一案中所發表的意見。法院以四票對三票讚成將種族因素納入大學錄取過程對申請者的全面考慮之中。

“今天,最高法院認可了考慮種族因素的錄取政策對於確保我國高等教育學府多樣性的重要作用。”NAPABA會長Jin Y. Hwang表示,“作為有色人種律師,我們看到了這些政策對於法律工作者的有益影響,我們也意識到高等教育的多樣性對於確保我們能夠擁有更多有才華的律師與法官服務各個社區的重要性。”

艾比蓋.費雪 (Abigail Fisher),此次平權法案一案的主角,一位被德克薩斯大學拒絕的白人學生,聲稱自己因種族問題受到歧視。Advancing Justice、AALDEF及NAPABA共提交了三份非當事人意見陳述,支持大學在審閱入學申請時參考種族等因素的全面評審方式。這些陳述代表了160多個亞太美(AAPI)組織對於高等教育領域平權法案的支持意見。

“我們很高興看到最高法院認可了種族因素在大學錄取過程中持續的相關性,以及高質量、多樣化的學生群體的重要性。”AALDEF執行董事馮美琪(Margaret Fung)說道,“我們很高興看到肯尼迪大法官意識到了考慮種族因素,將有益于所有德克薩斯大學─奧斯汀分校(UT-Austin)的申請者,包括亞裔美國申請者,引用AALDEP提交的陳述,費雪對於學校歧視亞裔美國學生的斷言是‘完全不受證據或經驗性數據支持的’。”馮女士還表示:“德克薩斯大學對申請者的個人化審閱方式將繼續有益于亞裔美國學生,避免‘模範少數族裔’這一有害的偏見。”

與普遍看法,即亞太美裔學生在學術上都非常成功并很容易上大學這一錯誤印象恰恰相反的是,很多AAPI(包括東南亞、夏威夷原住民、太平洋島民)社區在接受高等教育方面都面臨著巨大的障礙。參考種族因素的錄取方式將開啟高等教育之門,并繼續造福很多AAPI學生。費雪一案沒有任何證據能夠支持她錯誤的、關於AAPI學生受害于大學的全面錄取評審方式的斷言。事實恰恰相反。

“我們很高興最高法院認可了平權法案政策的持續性需求,這將使得所有背景的學生,包括眾多一直以來弱勢的亞太美學生,都能享受高等教育,并通過他們對多元化社會所做出的貢獻,建立一個更強大的國家。”亞美公義促進中心﹣AAJC主席兼執行董事Mee Moua說道。

今天的裁決對全體美國人而言都是一個勝利。平權法案政策一直以來都是一項有效促進平等、確保各個背景、符合條件的學生都能享受公平上大學機會的工具,它認可了在考慮個人申請時種族因素的相關性。隨著今天的最新決定,最弱勢的AAPI學生及其他有色人種學生,都將繼續享受平等上大學的機會、成為明日的領導者。我們堅信,種族,不同於階級,是非常重要的。

“在這個有色人種被不成比例地殺害的世界,有色人種學生正採取著非常急需的方式,來改善校園內的種族氣候,而關於種族的公共言論更是將此話題推上了全國性舞台,我們比任何時候都更需要考慮種族因素的政策。”亞美公義促進中心─洛杉磯主席兼執行董事郭志明(Stewart Kwoh)評論道。

# # #
亞美公義促進中心由全國五個領導性組織構成,致力於為亞裔美國人及其他弱勢社區倡導公民權益與人權,以促進一個公正平等的社會。附屬機構包括:亞美公義促進中心─AAJC(華盛頓),亞美公義促進中心─亞特蘭大,亞美公義促進中心─亞洲法律聯會(舊金山)、亞美公義促進中心─芝加哥,及亞美公義促進中心─洛杉磯。

亞裔美國人法律保護和教育基金會(AALDEF)成立於1974年,是一個致力於保護并提倡亞裔美國人公民權益的全國性組織。通過訴訟、倡導、教育與組織,AALDEF攜手全國各地亞裔美國社區,為人人爭取人權。

全國亞太裔律師協會(NAPABA)是一個全國性亞太美律師、法官、法律教授及法學學生協會。NAPABA代表了全國50,000多名律師以及75個國家級、州級及當地律師協會。協會會員包括個體律師、大型律所律師、企業法律顧問、法律服務與非營利律師,以及各級政府律師。NAPABA參與立法與政策倡導,推動亞太美政治領導與任命,并為所有法律從業人員、乃至整個社區建立聯盟。NAPABA同時還為政府機構、國會成員以及公共服務機構提供亞太美法律服務、公民權益及法庭多樣性等資源。


Warning: sprintf(): Too few arguments in /homepages/16/d208494601/htdocs/clickandbuilds/AsianAmericanCivilRights/wp-content/themes/identity/inc/template-tags.php on line 111
Leave a comment

National AAPI Organizatons Applaud Supreme Court Decision in Affirmative Action Case

Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice), the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) applaud the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion released today in Fisher v. University of Texas.

The Court ruled in favor of the consideration of race as part of a holistic review of an applicant in university admissions processes.

“Today the Supreme Court affirmed the important role race-conscious admissions policies have in ensuring diversity in our nation’s colleges and universities,” said NAPABA president Jin Y. Hwang. “As lawyers of color, we see the beneficial impacts of these policies every day in the legal workforce, and we recognize that diversity in higher education is critical to ensuring we have a pipeline of talented lawyers and judges able to serve their communities.”

The case centers on the claim by Abigail Fisher, a white student denied admission to the University of Texas, that she was discriminated against by virtue of her race. Advancing Justice, AALDEF and NAPABA filed three separate amicus briefs in support of the University’s use of race as a factor among many factors taken into consideration as part of a holistic review of an application for admission. Together, the briefs represented more than 160 Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) organizations in support of affirmative action in higher education.

“We are gratified the Supreme Court has recognized the ongoing relevance of race as one of several factors in the college admissions process and the importance of a highly-qualified and diverse student body,” commented Margaret Fung, executive director of AALDEF. “We are glad that Justice Kennedy recognized that the consideration of race may be beneficial to any UT-Austin applicant, including Asian American applicants and, citing AALDEF’s amicus brief, noted that Fisher’s assertion that the university discriminates against Asian Americans is “entirely unsupported by evidence in the record or empirical data.” Ms. Fung continued, “UT’s individualized review of applicants will continue to benefit Asian Americans and avoid harmful stereotypes based on the ‘model minority’ myth.”

Contrary to popular and damaging beliefs that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are universally successful in academics and enjoy easy access to universities, many AAPIs, including Southeast Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders, face serious barriers to higher education. Race-conscious admissions programs open the doors of higher education and continue to benefit many AAPI students today. No evidence in the record from Fisher supports the erroneous claim that AAPIs are harmed by the university’s use of holistic admissions. In fact, the opposite is true.

“We are pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court acknowledges the continued need for affirmative action policies that make it possible for students of all backgrounds, including many historically disadvantaged Asian American and Pacific Islanders, to access higher education and create a stronger country through their contributions to a diverse society,” said Mee Moua, President and Executive Director of Advancing Justice-AAJC.

Today’s ruling is a victory for all Americans. Affirmative action policies have been used as an effective tool to promote equality, ensure qualified students from all backgrounds get a fair chance at higher education, and acknowledge that race is relevant context in considering an individual’s application. With today’s decision, the most vulnerable AAPI students, along with other students of color, will continue to have equal opportunity to enter the institutions that shape tomorrow’s leaders, and we continue to affirm that race, as distinct from class, matters.

“In a world where people of color are killed at alarmingly disproportionate rates, students of color are taking much needed action to improve the racial climate on school campuses, and public discourse about race has rightfully taken center stage on a national level, we need race conscious policies now more than ever,” says Stewart Kwoh, President and Executive Director of Advancing Justice-LA.


Asian Americans Advancing Justice is a national affiliation of five leading organizations advocating for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and other underserved communities to promote a fair and equitable society for all. The affiliation’s members are: Advancing Justice-AAJC (Washington, D.C.), Advancing Justice-Atlanta, Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco), Advancing Justice-Chicago, and Advancing Justice-Los Angeles.

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), founded in 1974, is a national organization that protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. By combining litigation, advocacy, education, and organizing, AALDEF works with Asian American communities across the country to secure human rights for all.

The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) is the national association of Asian Pacific American attorneys, judges, law professors, and law students. NAPABA represents the interests of over 50,000 attorneys and over 75 national, state, and local bar associations. Its members include solo practitioners, large firm lawyers, corporate counsel, legal services and non-profit attorneys, and lawyers serving at all levels of government. NAPABA engages in legislative and policy advocacy, promotes Asian Pacific American political leadership and political appointments, and builds coalitions within the legal profession and the community at large. NAPABA also serves as a resource for government agencies, members of Congress, and public service organizations about Asian Pacific Americans in the legal profession, civil rights, and diversity in the courts.

More than 150 Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Organizations Support Affirmative Action in Higher Education

The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) and 25 of its national member organizations* stand for equal opportunity and joined an open letter of more than 150 Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) groups to support affirmative action in higher education.

This letter is in response to recent anti-affirmative action administrative complaints filed against Brown, Dartmouth, and Yale universities. The letter emphasizes that affirmative action does not constitute quotas, limit students of any ethnic or racial backgrounds, or discriminate against Asian Americans. Rather, affirmative action promotes equal opportunity for all.

“The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans joins 25 of our members, other AANHPI groups and communities of color to support affirmative action in higher education,” said NCAPA National Director Christopher Kang. “Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders benefit from being in diverse communities, and diversity makes our nation stronger. We cannot demand equal opportunity in our boardrooms, in government, and in the media, and then turn around and oppose affirmative action in higher education. Our community will not be used as a wedge against access to higher education.”

The Supreme Court also is expected to rule soon in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case, which is a constitutional challenge to the University of Texas at Austin’s equal opportunity admissions policy. NCAPA has joined an amicus brief in this case. On the day of the Supreme Court’s oral arguments, NCAPA urged the Supreme Court to uphold the admissions program, and Kang spoke at a National Action Network rally.

Read today’s letter, learn more about affirmative action and show your support here.

*The 25 NCAPA members who signed on are: Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF), Asian American Psychological Association (AAPA), Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO (APALA), Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership (APPEAL), Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO), Center for APA Women (CAPAW), Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA), Hmong National Development (HND), Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), Laotian American National Alliance (LANA), Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, Inc. (LEAP), National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association (NAAPIMHA), National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), National Asian Pacific American Families Against Substance Abuse (NAPAFASA), National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD), National Council of Asian Pacific Islander Physicians (NCAPIP), National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC), National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), and Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC).

Based in Washington, D.C., the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans is a coalition of 35 national Asian Pacific American organizations that serves to represent the interests of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities and to provide a national voice for our communities’ concerns. Our communities are the fastest growing racial/ethnic group in the United States, currently making up approximately six percent of the population.

What You Need To Know: Asian American Group Files Anti-Affirmative Action Complaint Against Yale, Dartmouth, Brown

I can’t believe we’re dealing with this again.

Less than a year after the Department of Education dismissed a frivolous administrative complaint filed by the Asian American Coalition for Education (AACE) against Harvard University, the AACE has now announced it will file a nearly identical administrative complaint against  Yale University, Brown University and Dartmouth College. In their  complaint against Harvard, AACE alleged — absent any significant evidence — that race-conscious affirmative action discriminates against Asian American applicants.

This work bolsters efforts by conservative partisan and lobbyist Edward Blum, who has made a career out of opposing civil rights measures for people of color. Blum is best known as the architect of the Fisher v. University of Texas Supreme Court cases, which is the Right’s latest campaign to invalidate affirmative action in higher education.

Outside of his interest in ending race-conscious affirmative action, Blum has backed numerous Supreme Court cases to reverse portions of the Voting Rights Act and to silence voters of color. In the recently defeated Evenwel v. Abbott Supreme Court case, Blum and his fellow litigators argued that districts should be drawn so as to disenfranchise thousands of non-voting citizens, who are predominantly young people and people of color.

Edward Blum is clearly no ally of the AAPI community. So, one must wonder why some Asian Americans would support his causes.

Continue reading on http://reappropriate.co.

National Council of Asian Pacific Americans Calls on Supreme Court to Uphold Affirmative Action

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in Fisher v. University of Texas, which is a challenge to the University of Texas at Austin’s affirmative action policies, and the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) urges the Supreme Court to uphold this program.

This morning, Asian American leaders Christopher Kang, national director of NCAPA, and Eugene Chay, senior staff attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, spoke at a National Action Network rally on the steps of the Supreme Court in support of affirmative action.

“The National Council of Asian Pacific Americans stands side by side with other communities of color in support of affirmative action in higher education, and we urge the Supreme Court to uphold such policies, which benefit all Americans,” said NCAPA National Director Christopher Kang. “Diversity makes our nation stronger–from education and the workplace to the boardroom and the Supreme Court itself–and we will not be used as a wedge against equal opportunities and access in higher education.”

“Asian Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of affirmative action – by a count of 69% according to a survey we co-authored in 2014,” said Eugene F. Chay, senior staff attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC. “The goal of achieving diversity in education is one that benefits all Americans and is still a goal worthy of striving for. Asian Americans are often held up as an example of a group that is adversely affected by race-conscious admissions policies, but this is simply misinformation and an attempt to hold up AAPIs as a wedge group.”

“The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association strongly urges the Supreme Court to uphold the long-standing precedent that diversity is a compelling interest in college admission policies, and to uphold the University of Texas-Austin’s admissions plan,” said NAPABA President Jin Y. Hwang. “As future leaders and custodians of the legal system, it is important that students have wide-ranging experiences, engage with diverse populations, and be representative of varied backgrounds. As current events demonstrate, it is equally imperative that today’s students develop empathy, understanding, and acceptance — traits which will become essential throughout their lives and careers.”

Last month, NCAPA joined Asian Americans Advancing Justice in its Supreme Court amicus brief supporting affirmative action in higher education admission policies. Sixteen NCAPA members, led by Asian Americans Advancing Justice AAJC and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, were among the more than 160 Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander organizations that joined briefs in this important case. 69 percent of Asian Americans approve of race-conscious admissions policies.

Based in Washington, D.C., the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans is a coalition of 35 national Asian Pacific American organizations that serves to represent the interests of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities and to provide a national voice for our communities’ concerns. Our communities are the fastest growing racial/ethnic group in the United States, currently making up approximately six percent of the population.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice Reaffirms Support for Race-Conscious Admissions As Supreme Court Revisits Affirmative Action

Asian Americans will not be used as a racial wedge to disenfranchise, and divide students of color

As the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments today in Fisher v. Texas for a second time, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice) stands firm in supporting equal opportunity and affirmative action in higher education.

“Opponents of affirmative action continue to use Asian American students as a racial wedge by peddling the myth that affirmative action hurts Asian American students by placing quotas on their admissions into elite colleges in favor of African American and Latino students. This is an absolute lie,” says Nicole Ochi, supervising attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. “Quotas, in fact, have been unconstitutional for decades and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students have historically benefitted, and continue to benefit from affirmative action policies.”

Contrary to the ‘model minority’ myth, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students need race-conscious admissions programs. In California, for example, the admit rates of Filipino, Thai, Laotian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students into the University of California (UC) system are significantly lower than the general admit rate.

Additionally, relative to their overall population, Filipinos, Native Hawaiians, Samoans, Guamanians/Chamorros, and Fijians are underrepresented in the UC system. This intraracial disparity is not unlike those affecting the AAPI community in Texas. The increased racial diversity and improved racial climate produced by race-conscious admission programs benefit all AAPI students, including those who do not benefit directly from affirmative action programs.

Affirmative action in higher education consists of race-conscious holistic admissions policies. As one of several factors in a holistic review of an individual’s college application including leadership and potential, affirmative action takes into account whether an applicant has overcome racial and ethnic adversity. It also considers whether an applicant has endured poverty or is the first in their family to attend college.

Any holistic admissions policy without the consideration of race does not create a race-neutral admissions program. Test scores, for instance, are not an accurate nor race-neutral measure of merit. In UT-Austin’s holistic review program, where test scores play a dominant role in the admissions process, it is even more crucial to consider race because these tests disproportionately limit access to educational opportunities for minority students.

According to a recent study, race is the single most important factor in a student’s SAT scores, even more determinative than socioeconomic status and parental education levels.

“Race still matters in American life and all students benefit from a racially and ethnically diverse learning environment, including increased cross-racial understanding, reduction of stereotyping and isolation of minority students, and training for a diverse workforce and society,” said Ochi.

For additional comments, the following experts from Advancing Justice can be reached at:

Laboni Hoq, Litigation Director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles
lhoq@advancingjustice-la.org

Nicole Gon Ochi, Supervising Attorney
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles
nochi@advancingjustice-la.org

Betty Hung, Policy Director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles
bhung@advancingjustice-la.org

Christopher Punongbayan, Executive Director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus
chrisp@advancingjustice-alc.org

Aarti Kohli, Deputy Director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus
aartik@advancingjustice-alc.org

Mee Moua, President and executive director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC
comrequests@advancingjustice-aajc.org

Asian Americans Advancing Justice is a national affiliation of five leading organizations advocating for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and other underserved communities to promote a fair and equitable society for all. The affiliation’s members are: Advancing Justice – AAJC (Washington, D.C.), Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco), Advancing Justice – Atlanta, Advancing Justice – Chicago, and Advancing Justice – Los Angeles.

160+ AAPI Groups File Legal Briefs with U.S. Supreme Court in Support of Affirmative Action

Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice), the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), have filed three separate amicus briefs urging the nation’s highest court to uphold University of Texas at Austin’s (UT-Austin) affirmative action policy.

Together, the briefs represent over 160 organizations in support of equal opportunity and affirmative action in higher education, representing the tremendous diversity within Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, including Arab, Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander organizations. In addition, the briefs represent 53 individuals, including higher education faculty and officials.

FAQs on AAPIs and the Fisher case

“With long histories of serving the most vulnerable members of our community, these organizations range from large, pan-Asian national organizations and professional associations, to student and grassroots groups,” says Laboni Hoq, litigation director at Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. “Such broad support for race conscious admissions policies sends a clear message that AAPIs overwhelmingly support these policies and will not be used as a racial wedge to disenfranchise other communities of color.”

The amicus brief filed by Advancing Justice argues that an applicant cannot be evaluated holistically without the consideration of race. In UT-Austin’s holistic review program, where test scores play a dominant role in the admissions process, it is even more crucial to consider race because these tests disproportionately limit access to educational opportunities for minority students.

The brief also shows how race conscious admissions programs opened the doors of higher education for AAPI students after a century of discrimination and exclusion and continue to benefit many AAPI students who face significant educational barriers today.

A closer look at disaggregated data reveals large disparities in educational attainment among Asian American ethnic groups. Based on U.S. Census Bureau data, the educational attainment of Hmong, Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans is the lowest among Asian American ethnic groups and similar to those of Latinos and African Americans. Only 61 percent of Hmong Americans hold a high school diploma, while only 12 percent of Laotian Americans have graduated from college.

“Supporters of Fisher have mischaracterized UT-Austin’s race-conscious admissions policy. It can benefit Asian Americans through an individualized review of applicants that avoids harmful stereotypes based on the ‘model minority’ myth,” says AALDEF Executive Director Margaret Fung.

As summarized in AALDEF’s amicus brief: “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders–a unique cross-section of identities and experiences that spans a range of comparative privilege and disadvantage–benefit from this individualized approach to admissions, as do African Americans, Latinos, and Whites.” The AALDEF amicus brief also distinguishes between the two distinct concepts of negative action and affirmative action, noting there is no evidence in the record of discrimination by UT-Austin.

“We recognize that Asian Pacific Americans, like other groups, have endured cases of discrimination and lack of opportunities which continue to impact us today. The low numbers of minority groups in the legal profession, government, and corporate leadership underscore the need to remove barriers to higher education and increase diversity,” says George C. Chen, president of NAPABA.

“Courtrooms, law firms, and law schools must be filled with people of different backgrounds so that we can better understand and respect the diversity of the American public.”

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed that universities may consider race as part of a holistic review process to increase racial diversity on campus. When instructed to look more carefully at whether UT-Austin tried other methods of achieving greater racial diversity before considering race, the 5th Circuit determined that UT-Austin’s efforts to increase racial diversity through race-neutral means (e.g. “Top Ten Percent” Plan) did not result in the qualitative diversity that it sought, and therefore, upheld the University’s use of race as a factor in its holistic admissions policy.

Fisher appealed this decision forcing a second hearing of the case by the U.S. Supreme Court in December.

The Asian American Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice) amicus brief represents 141 Asian American organizations, student groups, and bar associations, as well as, 9 members of academia. Caldwell Leslie & Proctor, PC served as pro-bono co-counsel. For a copy, visit www.advancingjustice-la.org.

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) amicus brief represents 21 Asian American education and youth-serving groups, including the Asian/Asian American Faculty and Staff Association and the Asian Desi Pacific Islander American Collective at UT-Austin, and 44 higher education faculty and officials. Foley Hoag LLP served as pro-bono co-counsel. For a copy, visit http://aaldef.org.

The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) amicus brief, filed by the Coalition of Bar Associations of Color (CBAC), consisting of NAPABA, the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), the National Bar Association (NBA), and the National Native American Bar Association (NNABA), highlights the importance of race conscious admissions policies in order to preserve a diverse pipeline of individuals into the legal profession. For a copy, visit, www.napaba.org.


Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice) is a national affiliation of five leading organizations advocating for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and other underserved communities to promote a fair and equitable society for all. The affiliation’s members are: Advancing Justice – AAJC (Washington, D.C.), Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco), Advancing Justice – Atlanta, Advancing Justice – Chicago, and Advancing Justice – Los Angeles.

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), founded in 1974, is a national organization that protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. By combining litigation, advocacy, education, and organizing, AALDEF works with Asian American communities across the country to secure human rights for all.

The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) is the national association of Asian Pacific American attorneys, judges, law professors, and law students. NAPABA represents the interests of approximately 50,000 attorneys and approximately 75 national, state, and local Asian Pacific American bar associations. NAPABA continues to be a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting Asian Pacific American communities. Through its national network of committees and affiliates, NAPABA provides a strong voice for increased diversity of the federal and state judiciaries, advocates for equal opportunity in the workplace, works to eliminate hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment, and promotes the professional development of people of color in the legal profession.

Dept. of Education Dismisses Complaint Filed Against Harvard by Anti-Affirmative Action Asian American Groups

This was originally posted on reappropriate.co.

reappropriate.coIn a completely unsurprising turn of events, the Department of Education yesterday dismissed an administrative complaint filed in May against Harvard University by 60+ Asian American anti-affirmative action activists. The complaint alleged that Harvard University discriminates against Asian American applicants in their race-conscious affirmative action admissions policies but little information was provided to bolster these claims.

The Department of Education announced yesterday that the complaint was rejected because it was too similar in content to a pending federal lawsuit, which had been filed late last year by conservative anti-affirmative action lobbyist Edward Blum.

The similarities would be predicted: the complaint states in its introduction that it was inspired by the federal lawsuit orchestrated by Edward Blum. Indeed, that appears to be something of an understatement: some of the text of the administrative complaint is thinly-veiled (relatively lazy) paraphrasing of the Blum lawsuit (see below), and the last half of the complaint straightforwardly reproduces the Blum lawsuit nearly in its entirety. One might use the word “plagiarism”, if one weren’t already convinced that both the lawsuit and the complaint were coordinated by anti-affirmative action parties working in tandem — at their press conference this year, the complaint’s authors were open about their close relationship with Edward Blum’s Students For Fair Admissions political action group.

lawsuit-vs-complaint001

The administrative complaint’s footing was also weakened by the fact that it (and therefore, by extension, Blum’s lawsuit) offers limited supporting evidence for their claim of anti-Asian bias at Harvard University. Harvard, in particular, seemed a dubious target for the complaint: that school had already been the focus of a Department of Education and Office of Civil Rights investigation to specifically explore the possibility that Asian American applicants were racially disadvantaged in admissions, and no evidence of discrimination had been uncovered at the school.

Harvard’s proportion of incoming Asian American freshmen has been steadily increasing. This year, 21% of Harvard’s incoming freshman class is Asian American, which is an identical proportion to the fraction of Harvard’s applicants who are Asian American. Thus, there is no evidence that Asian American applicants are being subjected to a disparate admissions rate compared to other applicants; rather, Asian Americans are apparently being admitted at the same highly selective rate (5.3%) as the aggregate applicant pool.

Race-conscious affirmative action has been necessary to maintain higher education access for underprivileged Black, Latino, Native and AAPI students. Consistent with this, the vast majority of AAPI voters say they support affirmative action and do not believe it hurts our college admissions chances. Two Civil Rights Commissioners — both Asian American — released a joint statement in response to May’s anti-affirmative action filing to the Department of Education, stating:

Neither of us believes that any racial or ethnic group should be subjected to quotas. Nor do we believe that test scores alone entitle anyone to admission at Harvard. Students are more than their test scores and grades. Well-constructed and properly implemented admissions programs further our principles of equal opportunity. While we understand that some programs may be imperfect, or even need substantial reform, we do not support any attempt to eliminate affirmative action programs at Harvard or any institution of higher learning.

The authors of the administrative complaint are the clear minority for our community. Reflecting this fact, more than 135 national AAPI civil rights organizations and hundreds of concerned individuals signed an open letter earlier this year supporting race-conscious affirmative action policies and opposing the 60+ groups’ administrative complaint. Their ongoing efforts to protect affirmative action can be found at AsianAmericanCivilRights.org.

The complaint’s authors are not, however, dissuaded. Speaking to media yesterday, Yukong Zhao hinted that the groups may refile their complaints targeting other schools. Saying he was “very disappointed”, Zhao said, “there are lots of other Ivy League schools discriminating against Asians.”

Speaking to NBC News, Zhao said:

“We are going to continue to pursue our equal education rights,” Zhao told NBC News. “We have a lot of other options, and we are not going to be slowed by this.”

Well, alrighty then. Looks like Zhao and his anti-affirmative action buddies now plan to harass other elite universities with the same angry accusations.

Meanwhile, Edward Blum’s lawsuits — which use the Asian American community as racial mascots to advance a conservative anti-affirmative action agenda — hit a roadblock Monday when Harvard University and University of North Carolina asked the courts to put the cases against them on hold pending the Supreme Court’s announcement it would rehear the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case. In 2013, the Supreme Court sent the Fisher case — in which plaintiff Abigail Fisher alleged racial discrimination against herself and other White applicants at the University of Texas — back to the Court of Appeals to apply strict scrutiny to the case; when the case was returned to them, the Fifth Circuit again ruled in favour of University of Texas saying that the school’s race-conscious affirmative action policies were fair.

I really have to start wondering: what would it take for opponents of affirmative action to finally start reading the writing on the wall?