WASHINGTON (Aug. 13, 2012) — More that 70 Asian American and Pacific Islander organizations filed an amicus curiae brief Tuesday with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of race-conscious admissions in higher education.
The organizations have long histories of representing the interests of a wide swath of AAPI communities on a diverse range of issues. In October, the Court will hear arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin to determine whether the University of Texas-Austin’s use of race as one of many factors in its consideration of 25 percent of its total admissions pool is constitutional.
The effort was led by Asian American Center for Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice), the Asian American Institute in Chicago, the Asian American Justice Center in Washington, the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco, and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center in Los Angeles.
“Allowing colleges to consider racial diversity as one of many factors in a small number of admissions will promote equal opportunity and ensure that qualified but socioeconomically disadvantaged students of color, including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, have access to higher education and are not left behind,” said Stewart Kwoh, executive director at APALC. “Flagship universities like UT Austin have a mission and obligation to train the leaders of tomorrow and promote and provide a diverse learning environment.”
Equal opportunity in higher education was also before the Court in 2003. Ruling in two University of Michigan cases (Gratz v. Bollinger & Grutter v. Bollinger), the Court upheld as constitutional universities’ consideration of race as one of many factors in order to achieve educational benefits only gained through a racially and socioeconomically diverse student body.
“We stand by the promise of integrated and equal public education set out in Brown v. Board of Education,” said Hyeon-Ju Ro, executive director at ALC. “Race-conscious programs have desegregated our colleges and universities and are still needed to address racial inequalities in our education system today. We must combat the model minority stereotype and better understand the diversity of the Asian American community and the racial discrimination our communities suffer. We must not pit Asian Americans against other communities of color.”
Advancing Justice’s brief places the experience of Asian Americans and race-conscious admissions programs in context, describing how the programs have opened up higher education for AAPIs and other minorities and how AAPIs have benefited from race-conscious programs in employment, business, and government contracting.
“Voting and polling trends consistently show that a majority of Asian Americans support race-conscious admissions programs,” said Mee Moua, executive director of AAJC. “Asian American voters in California, Michigan, Washington, and other states have opposed referenda to eliminate race-conscious programs, and national opinion polls consistently show that a majority of Asian Americans support race-conscious programs. The breadth of our coalition is proof of just how much Asian Americans recognize that policies that promote diversity and equal opportunity strengthen our society and benefit us all.”
Advancing Justice supports UT Austin’s admissions program and disputes that the program harms Asian Americans. The amicus brief demonstrates how all students, including Asian Americans, benefit from race-conscious admissions programs that increase campus diversity, promote cross-racial interaction and cultural understanding, and prepare all students to be effective leaders in our multi-cultural society. The brief also challenges the overemphasis on test scores in admissions in light of studies and data showing that test scores are an inaccurate and incomplete measure of merit and achievement, and that Asian American admissions rates do not suffer when other factors are taken into account.
“We believe that Asian Americans should not be used as a wedge group to curtail opportunities for racial minorities,” said Tuyet Le, executive director of AAI. “Asian Americans and other communities of color have struggled together against racial discrimination and have fought for greater civil rights, protections, justice, and equality in this country.”
The over 70 groups who joined Advancing Justice’s brief include national organizations, local community based groups, advocacy organizations, bar associations, business associations, academic institutions, and student organizations. These organizations reflect the broad diversity of the AAPI community, including Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander American organizations.