Later this year, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (UT). The Court will consider a challenge to the constitutionality of UT’s consideration of race as one factor in a holistic, individualized review of about 25 percent of its undergraduate applicants’ admissions profiles.
Two years ago when the Fisher case was before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice), whose members are Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), Asian American Institute (AAI) and Asian Law Caucus (ALC), filed an amicus, or friend-of-the court, brief to support UT’s admissions policy.
We support affirmative action and diversity programs in admissions because we stand by the promise of integrated and equal public education set out in Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that declared legal racial segregation in public education to be unconstitutional. Continuing the positive legacy of that seminal case, consideration of race in admissions programs addresses the need to level the playing field across all levels of education.
We still need affirmative action and diversity programs because racial segregation and discrimination continue to impede access to educational opportunity in this country today. Many of our K-12 schools are more segregated today than they were 40 years ago. Our schools are still separate and unequal in funding, class size, number of AP classes, and teacher turnover and experience. This segregation and inequality affects not only African Americans and Latinos, but many underrepresented Asian American subgroups and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPI). Asian Americans and NHPIs graduate from high school at lower rates than non-Hispanic whites, and disparities in high school and post-secondary graduation statistics are particularly stark for some ethnic groups like Hmong, Cambodian, Laotian and Vietnamese Americans, whose educational attainment rates are similar to those of Latinos and African Americans. Far from being “race-neutral,” universities’ sole use of criteria like grades and test scores has been shown to unfairly capture and exacerbate those racial inequalities. The reality of race must be taken into account to ensure equal access to our public universities.
Advancing Justice also believes that a truly integrated and diverse learning environment enhances students’ educational experiences and better prepares them for success in our increasingly multi-racial society.
Given the racial discrimination that persists against people of color, including Asian Americans and NHPIs, in many arenas, race-conscious strategies are fundamental to ensuring equal opportunity and access in all sectors of our diverse society.
We further believe that students of all races will benefit from an expansion – instead of shrinking – of the public higher education system. UCLA, which does not consider race as a factor in admissions, received more than 91,000 applications for approximately 5,400 spaces in the incoming fall 2012 class. The lack of adequate resources for higher education is the primary, underlying cause that many qualified applicants – including Asian Americans and NHPIs –are denied admission. It is this issue of expanding higher education resources that should be the focus of those who care about educational opportunity for Asian Americans and NHPIs
This summer, we will work together—and with you—to reaffirm our support for UT’s consideration of race as one of many factors in its admissions decisions by filing an amicus brief before the Supreme Court.
Advancing Justice is not alone in its support of affirmative action. The Asian American Legal Defense Fund (AALDEF) also released a statement, as did the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA), affirming their commitment to affirmative action and diversity policies.
In addition, Sissy Trinh, executive director of the Southeast Asian Community Alliance which works with high school students in Los Angeles' Chinatown, stated, "Southeast Asian American students often face barriers to higher education. Taking into account the entirety of an applicant's background and life experiences, including race, is important to ensure fair access to educational opportunities for Southeast Asians and other communities."
With your support, Advancing Justice can strengthen its work to ensure equal opportunity for all Asian American and NHPI communities. To help us continue the fight to protect important policies like the one at UT, please consider making your tax-deductible donation to your Advancing Justice affiliate, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, today and help us continue the fight to protect important policies like the one at UT.
Thank you for your continued support.