PDF Version

Asian Americans Advancing Justice Files Brief In Support of Race-Conscious Admissions at Harvard

Asian Americans Refuse to be a Wedge in Affirmative Action Debate


Norcross, Georgia, July 30, 2018 — Today, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice) alongside the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Boston-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, and pro bono counsel, Arnold & Porter, filed an amicus curiae, “friend of the court,” brief on behalf of a diverse group of students, including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, who support Harvard’s race-conscious holistic admissions policy.

The court granted this group of students special privileges, including the right to submit evidence and participate in oral arguments, so that the student voice can be heard in the lawsuit challenging Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policy.

Harvard’s race-conscious holistic admissions policy first came under public scrutiny in 2014 when Students for Fair Admission (SFFA) filed a lawsuit claiming that the university’s race-conscious holistic review policy discriminates against Asian Americans. Orchestrated by Edward Blum, after a failed attempt to dismantle affirmative action at the Supreme Court (Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin), SFFA has actively recruited Asian Americans to be plaintiffs for their campaign. As a result, Asian Americans have been at the crosshairs of conversations about affirmative action.

"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.”

Asian American Student amici affirm that they have benefited directly from Harvard’s race-conscious admissions process as applicants and as current students at Harvard.

“I was told that my scores were low for an Ivy League school,” said Sally Chen, a Chinese American rising senior at Harvard who is one of the Student amici. “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.’”

For Chen, being Chinese is an inseparable part of who she is and what shaped her life experience. Race-conscious admissions recognizes that and understands that bald numerical indicators like a test score or GPA are not the sum total of who we are or what we have to offer.

Student amici also attest that the racial diversity at Harvard has allowed them to bridge racial divides and engage in cross-cultural understanding in ways that would have been impossible in their segregated high schools.

“Coming from a predominantly white, upper-middle class Long Island high school, Harvard seemed incredibly diverse to me,” said Caroline Zheng, a Chinese American rising senior at Harvard and one of the Student amici. “I made many African American friends during my first year who provided me with perspectives that I previously lacked, which forced me to confront my own prejudices and privilege. ”

At the same time, Student amici contend that Harvard has yet to reach the level of diversity necessary to fully realize its benefits and that any supposedly race-neutral alternative that decreases racial diversity would be devastating to the educational environment and racial climate at Harvard.

"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 at Harvard and one of the Student amici. “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.”

The heart of this lawsuit is whether Harvard can continue to value racial diversity in ways in which our country has consistently fallen short: acknowledging the entrenched racism that still pervades every aspect of life, bridging racial divides, and developing racially diverse leaders in every sector. This lawsuit has nothing to do with discrimination against Asian Americans.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice fights every day across the country to end racism against Asian Americans and all people of color, and we recognize Ed Blum’s strategy for what it is: a thinly veiled attempt to use Asian Americans to destroy racial diversity on every campus across the country. We, and the student amici that we present, refuse to be used as a wedge. We stand together with students of all races to ask for more diversity on college campuses, not less.

Advancing Justice Contacts:
James Woo, (404) 585-8446, jwoo@advancingjustice-atlanta.org
Jessica Jinn, (213) 241-8817, jjinn@advancingjustice-la.org
Michelle Boykins, (202) 296-2300 x0144, mboykins@advancingjustice-aajc.org
Christina So, (415) 848-7728, christinaso@advancingjustice-alc.org
Brandon Lee, (773) 271-0899 x200, blee@advancingjustice-chicago.org

December 12, 2018: Asian Americans Advancing Justice and SEARAC call on Trump Administration to Honor U.S. - Vietnam Repatriation Agreement

November 29, 2018: GEORGIA GUARANTEES VOTING RIGHTS TO LIMITED-ENGLISH PROFICIENT VOTERS IN RUNOFF ELECTIONS

November 28, 2018: Advancing Justice-Atlanta to hold press conference on lawsuit challenging state law that denies voters interpreters at the polls

November 27, 2018: ADVANCING JUSTICE SEEKS TO PROTECT LIMITED ENGLISH PROFICIENT VOTERS IN GEORGIA

November 13, 2018: Advancing Justice - Atlanta to Testify at Gwinnett Board of Elections Meeting About Issues Faced by Voters of Color

November 2, 2018: Federal Court Provides Immediate Relief for Thousands of Georgia Voters

October 22, 2018: CIVIL RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS of GEORGIA PRESS CONFERENCE AFTER TUESDAY’S FEDERAL COURT PROCEEDING ON SIGNATURE-MATCH LAW

October 12, 2018: Civil Rights Groups Sue Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp to Cease Discriminatory ‘No Match, No Vote’ Registration Protocol

October 11, 2018: Value Our Families Coalition Calls Out Trump’s ‘Backdoor’ Attempt to Shut Out Immigrants and Block Family Reunification

October 10, 2018: ADVANCING JUSTICE WILL FIGHT PUBLIC CHARGE

September 22, 2018: ASIAN AMERICANS ADVANCING JUSTICE OUTRAGED AT NEW PROPOSAL ATTACKING IMMIGRANT FAMILIES

September 20, 2018: Non-Profit Civic Engagement organizations continue to ensure Georgia’s Korean American voters are ready for midterm election.

September 12, 2018: Free Citizenship Workshop to mark Citizenship Day

August 29, 2018: Asian Americans Advancing Justice Pledges Continued Support for Affirmative Action Group files brief in Harvard case

July 30, 2018: Asian Americans Advancing Justice Files Brief In Support of Race-Conscious Admissions at Harvard

July 19, 2018: Voting Rights Advocates Demand that Georgia Secretary of State Cease Discriminatory ‘No Match, No Vote’ Registration Protocol

July 19, 2018: Advocacy Groups and Immigrant Rights Organizations to host press conference against 287(g) program in Georgia

July 2, 2018: Americans Must Protect Its 50 Year Legacy of Reuniting Immigrant Families in the U.S. Who’ve Made This Country Strong

June 29, 2018: New #ValueOurFamilies Coalition Unite to Defend Family Immigration and Protect Family Unity

June 28, 2018: IMMIGRANT RIGHTS GROUPS URGE THE RELEASE OF SOUTH ASIAN ASYLUM SEEKERS AND BRING ATTENTION TO SECOND HUNGER STRIKE IN GEORGIA DETENTION CENTERS

June 26, 2018: Asian Americans Advancing Justice Condemns Supreme Court Decision on Muslim Ban

June 22, 2018: INDIAN ASYLUM SEEKERS IN ICE CUSTODY BEGIN SECOND HUNGER STRIKE AT FOLKSTON ICE PROCESSING FACILITY

June 22, 2018: Despite 193-231 Failed Floor Vote, Rep. Woodall and Rep. Handel Votes YES for Goodlatte’s Anti-Immigrant, Anti-Family Bill, Goes On Record As A Soldier for Trump’s Mass Deportation Force

June 20, 2018: Immigrant Rights Groups Mourn the Death of Vietnamese Detainee

June 20, 2018: Immigrant Rights Groups Mourn the Death of Vietnamese Detainee_in Vietnamese

June 20, 2018: Trump’s Executive Order STILL Jails Children and Their Parents

June 13, 2018: Goodlatte’s Anti-Immigrant, Anti-Family Bill Exposes How Out of Touch House Republicans Are with America

May 31, 2018: PRESS ADVISORY: FAMILIES BELONG TOGETHER NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION RALLY

May 7, 2018: Advancing Justice Condemns Termination of TPS for Honduras

May 1, 2018: Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta presents first ever Halal Korean BBQ Night in Georgia

April 26, 2018: Asian Americans Advancing Justice Urges Congress to Intervene for Nepali TPS Holders

April 25, 2018: Asian Americans Advancing Justice Calls for Permanent Solution to Protect Immigrant Communities

April 25, 2018: Asian Americans Advancing Justice Stands With Impacted Communities As Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in Muslim Ban Case, Trump v. Hawaii

April 6, 2018: Advancing Justice Mourns Loss of Senator Daniel Akaka

March 27, 2018: Asian Americans Advancing Justice Will Fight Addition of Citizenship Question in 2020 Census

March 26, 2018: Advocacy Groups and Immigrant Rights Organizations to host press conference against Senate Bill 452

March 22, 2018: Advancing Justice-Atlanta Organizes 5th Annual Non-Partisan Candidate Training on March 24-25

March 16, 2018: Asian Americans Advancing Justice Demands Apology from Secretary Zinke for Ignorant Remark Directed at Congresswoman Hanabusa

February 28, 2018: Immigrant Rights Advocates Sue ICE to Stop Illegal Incarceration of Vietnamese Refugees

February 28, 2018: Religious leaders and Immigrant Rights Advocates to host a press conference against anti-immigrant legislation in Georgia

February 26, 2018: Advancing Justice-Atlanta and immigrant rights organizations to host a rally to stop anti-immigrant legislation in Georgia

February 14, 2018: Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta to host our Legislative Breakfast and Lobby Day with Legislators, communities, and organizations

January 24, 2018: Immigrant Advocates Oppose “Adios Amazon” Bills

January 22, 2018: Asian Americans Advancing Justice Deeply Saddened By Senate Failure to Defend Undocumented Youth

January 20, 2018: Asian Americans Advancing Justice to Congress: DO YOUR JOB!

January 11, 2018: Advancing Justice - Atlanta to continue its effort to Naturalize underserved communities in 2018

January 11, 2018: Asian Americans Advancing Justice Voices Opposition to House Sponsored Anti-Immigrant Legislation

January 11, 2018: ADVANCING JUSTICE CONDEMNS PRESIDENT'S RACIST AND WHITE SUPREMACIST COMMENTS

January 10, 2018: Advancing Justice Applauds Federal Court Ruling to Halt Termination of DACA

January 8, 2018: Advancing Justice Condemns Termination of TPS for Nearly 200,000 Salvadorans