WASHINGTON (May 24, 2012) — The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice — Asian American Institute, Asian American Justice Center, Asian Law Caucus and Asian Pacific American Legal Center, announced Thursday they will file amicus briefs urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold University of Texas at Austin’s affirmative action policy in the upcoming case Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.
“We stand in favor of affirmative action’s continued benefits for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) achievement – including enabling underrepresented AAPIs to achieve equal access to college, reducing the isolation of students of color on campus, and preparing youth to be leaders in our multicultural society,” said Khin Mai Aung, AALDEF Director of the Educational Equity Program.
Under UT-Austin’s current admissions policy, the majority (e.g., 86 percent in 2009) of freshmen are admitted under the state’s Top Ten Percent plan – a policy that guarantees admission to public (and many private) high school seniors in the top 10 percent of their class, based solely on grades and not on other aspects of merit like leadership abilities, pursuit of extracurricular activities, and overcoming of adversity. The university bases remaining admissions on applicants’ academic rankings, performance, and a holistic, individualized review that takes into account race and other diversity factors, leadership experience, extracurricular activities, and socio-economic status.
UT-Austin’s policy was fashioned to comply with the Supreme Court’s 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger decision, which held that race can be one of many factors considered to attain campus diversity.
The Supreme Court in Grutter recognized that numerous racial and ethnic groups continue to face obstacles to higher education. For example, based on the 2000 Census, 59.6 percent of Hmong Americans, 53.3 percent of Cambodian Americans, 49.6 percent of Laotian Americans, and 38.1 percent of Vietnamese Americans received less than a high school education, compared to only 19.6 percent of white Americans.
These numbers, together with the fact that K-12 schools are more segregated today than they were 40 years ago, reflect unequal access to educational opportunities along racial lines.
“If the Supreme Court strikes down affirmative action and diversity policies like the one in place at UT-Austin, overall diversity at colleges and graduate schools would diminish across the country. Much more must be done to overcome the increasing racial segregation of our schools and to provide equal educational opportunity to qualified students,” said Meredith Higashi, AAJC staff attorney. “Racial segregation and discrimination continue to impede access to educational opportunity in this country. Because race still matters, considering race as one of several factors in a holistic, individualized review of university applicants is critical to mitigating barriers to higher education faced by qualified applicants from underrepresented groups, including certain Asian American sub-groups,” said APALC Litigation Director Laboni Hoq.
The Asian American Center for Advancing Justice (www.advancingjustice.org) works to promote a fair and equitable society for all by working for civil and human rights and empowering Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other underserved communities, and is comprised of the Asian American Justice Center (www.advancingequality.org), the Asian American Institute (www.aaichicago.org), the Asian Law Caucus (www.asianlawcaucus.org) and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (www.apalc.org).