LOS ANGELES (Dec. 9, 2015) — 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.