Check out the new #AffAxnSyllabus to learn more about affirmative action from publications that have well-researched and evidence-based.
These are some common questions relevant to public debates over affirmative action, as applied to college admissions. Although affirmative action is also practiced in public contracting and employment, this syllabus focuses on the third area of its practice – higher education and selective admissions. The purpose of this syllabus is to highlight research that can better inform current public debates over affirmative action in higher education.
For the last several decades, with every legal and political attack on affirmative action, scholars of race and college access have fielded numerous media requests to discuss the implications of these attacks. Many of these questions have reflected the persistence of pervasive myths about affirmative action, its goals, and how it works.
As faculty, staff, and students at a land grant university, we offer this syllabus as a public education initiative. As some scholars have found, in addition to the pervasiveness of misinformation about contemporary affirmative action in the general public, bad information about the policy also persists among many who are actively advocating for or against affirmative action. We hope that this syllabus can serve as a resource to establish a basic understanding of affirmative action, including how it has evolved since the 1970s in the U.S., and to advance a more informed public discourse and policy debate. Particularly as contemporary attacks on affirmative action continue through the federal courts and the Trump administration actions, it is important for public dialogues to be well-informed. As such, we have created this syllabus to feature publications that have been identified as well-researched and evidence-based works.
Thank you for all those that attended the webinar on Thursday, September 20.
Here is the recording of the webinar with markers to specific questions and answers that can be viewed on the YouTube link
Here’s a list of questions that were answered during the webinar:
- 9:35 – Affirmative Action Background, Whole Person Review, and Legal Question presented by Dr. Poon
- 19:15 – Q1 What factors are included in holistic review? Presentation about what goes behind holistic review on college admissions
- 24:51– Q2 In the Harvard case, what is the personal rating? Is it it a personality test? Doesn’t this rating seem to be biased against Asian Americans?
- 34:30 – Q3 How do you answer the question, “Do you think identifying as Asian will hurt you when applying to college?” How do you advise students and families who ask this question?
- 36:07 – Q4 What if we looked at socioeconomic status for affirmative action rather than race? Wouldn’t that eliminate many of the concerns about affirmative action but still reach the intent?
- 39:15 – Q5 What will happen if affirmative action is overturned? What will be some unexpected and expected consequences?
- 40:50 – Q6 As a high school senior currently applying to colleges, can you speak about your perspective on affirmative action in college admissions? Why do you value diversity?
- 45:48 – Q7 What are simple and effective ways everyday people can talk about the controversy over race-conscious holistic review and Asian Americans?
- 50:02 – “Would it be helpful to look at scholarship that shows actual discriminatory practices?”
- 54:48 – “Diversity is good but would it be necessary to be enforced by affirmative action?”
- 54:47 – “Many affirmative action supporters argue that we need it to break glass ceiling. Do you think it’s fair for tens of thousands Asian Americans to be discriminated against in their college admissions just for a few people to break the glass ceiling”
- 58:24 – “I would believe racial diversity is important if it’s applied to all majors. Are they”
- 1:01:50 – “Should I pick a major over another major to get admitted?”
- 1:05:14 – “UC Berkeley Chancellor in her draft strategic plan is to focus on becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution or HSI in the next ten years. In an HSI require a 25% Hispanic enrollment to qualify. Isn’t this a quota?”
- 1:08:40 – “How does affirmative action help the minorities within the Asian American community”
- 1:10:46 – “How do you explain the higher percentage of Asian Americans in the California universities as compared to Harvard?”
- 1:15:58 – “SFA argues that teacher and counselor letters of recommendation speak to student’s personality and personal traits and the finding shows that Asian American applicants receive the same ratings as white students. Some people think Asian American students getting a lower personality rating is bewildering. Are letters not mean as much anymore?”
- 1:19:01 – “With the push for data disaggregation in higher education for Asian and Asian American communities, how do you think the advocacy for affirmative action will be effected or will it change?”
- 1:21:15 – “How do people engage APA or APIDA folks who do not support affirmative action? What are some key points facts when pulling for the need of it?”
- 1:25:04 – “About 70% of affirmative action beneficiaries at elite colleges are from middle to upper class. Is it fair for colleges to give them a leg up at the expense of middle and lower class Asian American kids?”
Also, here is a link to the list of schools mentioned in the webinar that consider Asian Americans in college diversity recruitment programs.
The graph shows the Asian American percetange of Harvard applicants (red) out of the total applicant pool, the percentage of Asian American admitted students (green), and the Asian American percentage of matriculants, or people who were admitted and taking classes towards a major (purple) from 1980-2018.
The yellow dotted line is the percetange of Asian American percantage of US undergraduate enrollment.
Uncovering the Truth
Thursday, September 20, 2018
@ 8 PM EST / 5 PM PST
Learn from experts in higher education and college admissions of affirmative action and holistic review of Asian Americans from experts in the field and practitioners from schools. Webinar will be on
RSVP by Monday, September 17 – http://bit.ly/UncoveringTheTruthWebinar
Technical Information to join the webinar will be sent prior to 9/20!
Dr. Julie J. Park – Julie J. Park is associate professor of education at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her research addresses how race, religion, and social class affect diversity and equity in higher education, including the diverse experiences of Asian American college students. She is the author of When Diversity Drops: Race, Religion, and Affirmative Action in Higher Education (Rutgers University Press, 2013) and the upcoming book Race on Campus: Debunking Myths with Data (Harvard Education Press, forthcoming).
Alyson Tom – Alyson Tom has worked in education for fifteen years. She is Associate Director of College Counseling at Castilleja School in California, where she advises students on college admissions and financial aid. She serves on the NACAC Government Relations Committee and is the incoming Co-Chair of the NACAC Asian Pacific Islander Special Interest Group. Before Castilleja, she worked as a College Counselor at Episcopal High School and Assistant Director and Senior Assistant Director of Admission at Rice University in Texas. Alyson holds a B.A. from Rice University and an M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration from the University of Houston.
Rebecca – A high school senior in the San Francisco Bay Area, Rebecca is passionate about diversity and inclusion. After attending the NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference, she was inspired to lead an Asian-American Affinity Group at her school because she wanted to create a space for students to embrace their heritage and to discuss issues they face. Rebecca is currently helping to plan a Diversity and Inclusion in Education Conference for teachers and students which will take place later this fall. When she’s not in class or writing college essays, Rebecca enjoys volleyball, reading, and trying new food with friends.
Moderator – Dr. OiYan Poon – Dr. OiYan Poon is an Assistant Professor of higher education leadership in the School of Education and Director of the Center for Racial Justice in Education and Research. Her research focuses on the racial politics and discourses of college access, higher education organization and policy, affirmative action, and Asian Americans.
Moderator – Douglas H. Lee – Douglas H. Lee is a graduate research assistant in the Higher Education Leadership program at Colorado State University where he is a current Ph.D. student. He has previously served as the Associate Director at the University of Utah Asia Campus in South Korea, Assistant Director of the Asian American Center at Northeastern University in Boston, and Senior Program Manager at OCA in Washington D.C.
Panelists subject to change and webinar is limited to 500 people
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) and 34 Asian American groups and higher education faculty today filed an amicus “friend of the court” brief in Massachusetts federal court, opposing a challenge to Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policy (Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. Harvard).
“Asian Americans are an extremely diverse population with more than 50 ethnic groups, 100 languages, and a broad range of immigration, socioeconomic, and educational backgrounds,” said Margaret Fung, AALDEF executive director. “Instead of treating Asian Americans as a monolithic group, the individualized race-conscious admissions process at Harvard helps to create a more diverse student body that benefits all students, including Asian Americans.”
The plaintiff organization SFFA was created by Edward Blum, who has a long history of opposing affirmative action and restricting voting rights. In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his claims in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin and reaffirmed that race may be considered as one of several factors in the college admissions process. Blum has continued his crusade against affirmative action by recruiting Asian American students to assert that Harvard discriminated against them.
In their brief, AALDEF and other Amici contend that by improperly grouping the diverse pool of Asian American applicants into a single “Asian” category, SFFA actually perpetuates the “model minority” myth and fails to disclose that its requested remedy–the elimination of race-conscious admissions–would mostly benefit white applicants, not Asian Americans. The Amici reiterated their opposition to caps, quotas, or any negative action against Asian Americans but asserted that SFFA improperly conflates negative action with a race-conscious admissions policy that recognizes the importance of diversity.
Ken Kimerling, AALDEF legal director and one of the attorneys for Amici, said: “This case is hotly contested by witnesses and experts on both sides. However, SFFA has not submitted facts to support a finding of intentional discrimination against Asian Americans.” He noted that SFFA has not presented any supporting statements by the 40 or more persons involved each year to review and analyze the applications for admission. Kimerling said: “If there were a policy, written or unstated, to discriminate against Asian Americans, one or more of the 40 persons would have spoken up about it in the past decade. Clearly, the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment must be denied.”
Foley Hoag LLP is pro bono co-counsel representing the Amici.
In addition to AALDEF, 34 Asian American groups and higher education faculty are Co-Amici:
18 Million Rising
Asian American Federation
Asian American Psychological Association
Asian Americans United
Asian Law Alliance
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance
Asian Pacific American Network
Asian Pacific American Women Lawyers Alliance
Asian Pacific Islander Americans for Civic Empowerment
Chinese for Affirmative Action
Chinese Progressive Association
Coalition for Asian American Children & Families
Japanese American Citizens League
Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics
National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development
National Korean American Service & Education Consortium
National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance
OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
(Institutional affiliations provided for identification purposes only)
Vichet Chhuon – U. of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Gabriel J. Chin – University of California, David School of Law
Tarry Hum, MCP, PhD – Queens College CUNY
Anil Kalhan – Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law
Nancy Leong – University of Denver Sturm College of Law
Shirley Lung – City University of New York School of Law
Mari J. Matsuda – William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai’i at Manoa
Kevin Nadal, PhD – City University of New York
Philip Tajitsu Nash – University of Maryland at College Park
Cathy J. Schlund-Vials – University of Connecticut
Sona Shah – University of Texas at Austin
John Kuo Wei Tchen – Rutgers University-Newark
Margaret Y.K. Woo – Northeastern University School of Law
K. Wayne Yang – University of California, San Diego
You can download the amicus brief here: http://bit.ly/2C1YIkd.
More than 500 scholars (list below) holding doctorates in a wide range of academic fields, including education, Asian American studies, political science, economics, sociology, anthropology and psychology, have submitted an amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) brief in support of Harvard University, in a case currently being considered by the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts.
The lawsuit was filed by Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), an organization created by Edward Blum, who recruited Asian American plaintiffs in the case after he lost the last major challenge against affirmative action before the U.S. Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas (2016). In the case, SFFA argues that Harvard’s limited consideration of race in its admissions process intentionally discriminates against Asian American applicants. The amicus brief supports the use of race-conscious whole-person review. The brief was filed today.
The brief, submitted by scholars with expertise on Asian American studies, race, and college access, draws upon amici’s original research and the most extensive and up-to-date body of knowledge relevant to the legal issues in the case. The brief addresses: (1) why Asian American applicants, like applicants of all races, benefit from Harvard’s whole-person review process; and (2) why SFFA’s arguments are based on racial myths and stereotypes of Asian Americans.
Luke Kertcher is an undergraduate student at the University of Pennsylvania. Trinh Truong is an undergraduate student at Yale University. This was originally posted on https://www.pivotnetwork.org, the website of the Progressive Vietnamese American Organization (PIVOT).
Like 20% of our classmates at Yale and Penn, we are Asian American students attending Ivy League schools.
One of us graduated from a public school in the rural Midwest, where only a handful of Asian Americans were enrolled. The other attended a high-needs, urban public school in upstate New York, where more than 47 languages were spoken by a student body comprised mainly of refugees and immigrants. One of us had no standardized test preparation beyond poorly resourced teachers printing past exams. The other is lucky to have been included in a limited-enrollment college preparation program for low-income students that offered test preparation. Both of us are first-generation, Vietnamese American college students receiving substantial amounts of financial aid.
Edward Blum, a conservative activist who has previously attacked the Voting Rights Act and worked to disenfranchise immigrant voters, is now claiming to be on the side of Asian American students like us. Blum’s organization, Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), is suing Harvard for discrimination against Asian Americans. The anti-affirmative action plaintiffs argue that consideration of many factors, including race, in college admissions disproportionately hurts Asian American applicants. If admissions were based on academic measures alone, Blum claims, more Asian Americans would be admitted to elite colleges like Harvard, or Yale, or Penn.
Blum and SFFA perpetuate a narrative that claims schools like Harvard engage in racial bias by assigning Asian Americans lower “personal scores” than other applicants. But the personal score is not a “personality” test. More accurately, the personal score is part of a holistic review process that considers students’ personal histories and unique circumstances—aspects of a student that are not effectively captured by standardized tests. These are exactly the aspects of our lives that we sought to emphasize in our applications. The Trump administration and the Department of Justice have also expressed support for ending whole person review, instead supporting the use of metrics like test scores and GPA alone.
However, reducing applicants to purely numeric standards doesn’t help Asian American students like us. Rather, it erases our rich ethnic and racial histories—who we are as people. Expert analyses from both sides of the case show that the elimination of non-quantifiable factors in college admissions would have a devastating effect on Black and Latino students’ enrollment. Economist David Card, who is working on the Harvard case, has shown that relying on academic criteria alone benefits white students most and Asian American students negligibly.
Moreover, standardized test scores and grade points are not free from racial bias. Studies have shown that higher scores correlate with higher socioeconomic status. Data aggregation also obscures the interethnic disparities within the Asian American community, rendering our educational system blind to those facing the most systemic disadvantage.
When Blum and his supporters stereotype all Asian Americans as the same, they dehumanize us and obscure diversity within our Asian American community. While most Asian American applicants are of Chinese and Indian origin, a minority have heritage from Southeast Asian and many other Asian countries. Those from places like Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos are much more likely to identify as limited English proficient, live in poverty, come from households with lower levels of educational attainment, and confront gang violence at higher rates than other Asian Americans.
However, this history is forgotten and erased under the predominant stereotype of the model minority. Janelle Wong, a political scientist studying Asian American civic life, traces the origins of this model to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 that instituted meritocratic, “selective recruitment” policies based on occupational skills, education, and family reunification that have become the cornerstones of contemporary immigration law. As a result, all Asian Americans are perceived as test-taking aces due to some innate racial quality, but this is not our story. Our immigration narrative begins not with selective economic migration, but with the Vietnam War, the Secret War in Laos, the rise of the Khmer Rouge, and the subsequent exodus of refugees from mainland Southeast Asia.
Ed Blum and SFFA don’t represent us or our interests. As two Vietnamese American students, we have benefited from holistic admission policies that considered our families’ unique immigration histories and socioeconomic backgrounds instead of just our imperfect test scores. Because of affirmative action and holistic review that considered factors like our racial and ethnic backgrounds, Yale and Penn were able to see us as more than just numbers, but as high achievers with unique experiences and perspectives capable of contributing to our campus communities.
One of us is the son of a refugee who fled South Vietnam on a boat in 1975. The other is a more recent political refugee from South Vietnam resettled in 2001. Both of us are in the United States because of the historical legacy of the Vietnam War and the mass refugee resettlement of more than three million Southeast Asian refugees that occurred in its wake. Many of these individuals–including our families–were resettled without adequate access to education, housing, and healthcare, creating generational poverty, violence, and trauma.
Students with experiences like us will be excluded if holistic admissions and affirmative action policies are eliminated.
In an era where the definition of who belongs in America and who gets access to its institutions is in flux, this case becomes about more than just Harvard University and Asian Americans. An attack on affirmative action is an attack on racial justice, social mobility, and immigrants.