Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice) joined other Civil Rights groups Monday in filing a “friend of the court” brief in support of Harvard’s race-conscious holistic admissions policy.
The groups submitted the briefs in opposition to the lawsuit filed by Students for Fair Admission, a group headed by Edward Blum, who has attacked other affirmative action programs including those at the University of Texas, Austin. The Supreme Court ultimately decided in that case that the University of Texas admissions program withstood scrutiny.
“This lawsuit is not about Asian Americans,” said Nicole Ochi, supervising attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. “It is about using Asian Americans as a cover for Edward Blum’s crusade to force every institution of higher education to ignore the reality of systemic racism and segregation that infects every aspect of our lives. Holistic race-conscious admissions is necessary to address that reality and ensure meaningful access and opportunity for all communities, including Asian Americans. Eliminating such programs will do nothing to remedy any intentional or implicit bias against Asian American applicants. That’s not what this suit is really about.”
Current Asian American students at Harvard joined AAAJ-LA in supporting Harvard’s Admission program.
“I was told that my scores were low for an Ivy League school,” said Sally Chen, a Chinese American rising senior. “But against that advice, I applied to Harvard and ultimately chose to write about growing up in a working-class Chinese American family, because it allowed me to present myself as a whole person. When I reviewed my application, I saw that discussing my race ultimately benefited me in the admissions process because it allowed the reviewers to recognize that I had the potential to make a ‘contribution to college life’ that would be ‘truly unusual.’”
“I support Harvard’s race-conscious admissions program and I do not think that Harvard discriminates against Asian Americans, but that does not mean that Harvard has done enough,” said Thang Diep, a Vietnamese American rising senior. “Asian Americans are the second largest group [at Harvard], but there is still a troubling lack of ethnic diversity within that huge label. The presence of Southeast Asian students, for example, is extremely low.”
Harvard recently cited similar examples to reject the notion it is discriminating against Asian American applicants.
According to Inside Higher Education, Harvard called the briefs filed by Students for Fair Admission “misleading,” accusing the group of “cherry picking.”
It cited comments from Harvard admission officers including “a very deserving student from a first generation Vietnamese background who is valedictorian for this city-wide magnet school.” A Nepali student was described as someone who would “bring a fascinating perspective to campus,” while a Tibetan student was praised as someone who “writes well about the plight of exiled Tibetans.”
But Students for Fair Admissions, in its brief, cited the phrase “standard strong” as being used by admission officers to describe Asian applicants and generally dooms an applicant.
Harvard countered that “standard strong” “refers to an applicant who is very good but who does not rise to the top of an exceptionally competitive pool,” and is used to described members of all ethnic groups, not Asians.
Students for Fair Admissions says it will soon be submitting additional briefs to support its case, Inside Higher Education reported.
AsAmNews has Asian America in its heart. We’re an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns. Check out our Twitter feed and Facebook page for more content. Please consider interning, joining our staff or submitting a story.