Washington, DC – The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) has joined over 135 Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) organizations to sign a letter affirming the AAPI community’s support for race-sensitive admissions policies in higher education. The letter opposes recent efforts by a small group to dismantle race-sensitive admissions policies at educational institutions such as Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. SEARAC fully supports race-conscious policies as one of many variables for examining holistically a student’s ability to achieve, thrive, and positively contribute to the campus community.
SEARAC Executive Director Quyen Dinh said, “Affirmative action is one of the most important policies we have to undo decades or even centuries of institutional racism, systemic poverty, and discrimination. Discrimination against any racial or ethnic group is intolerable under our nation’s protection of civil rights. However, we will not let divisive groups undermine important policies such as affirmative action without merit in our community’s name. Affirmative action provides a framework for evaluating not only a student’s academic achievement, but the kinds of challenges and barriers that student has had to overcome to succeed at a high level for themselves and their community.”
Affirmative action policies account not only for race, but for challenges that many Southeast Asian American students face, such as poverty, being the first in the family to attend college, having parents who are not proficient in English, and attending low-performing schools that do not prepare students for standardized testing. Only 67% of Cambodian, 65% of Hmong, 68% of Laotian, and 70% of Vietnamese Americans aged 25 and over hold a high school degree or higher, compared to over 86% of the overall Asian American population.
Affirmative action is a keystone policy for addressing education equity, and it must be implemented in the context of a comprehensive approach to reducing education achievement gaps in this country. SEARAC calls for more attention to holistic K-12 policies that are equally important to close education equity gaps including, but not limited to, equal access to rigorous college and career ready content, support for English language learners and families with limited English proficiency, cultural and linguistic competency training for educators and school administrators, and health-promoting policies that address students’ physical and mental health challenges so that all students can thrive.
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