Students Will Be Allowed to Testify in Defense of Harvard’s Affirmative Action Program in Major Federal Court Case

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October 3, 2018

Students Will Be Allowed to Testify in Defense of Harvard’s Affirmative Action Program in Major Federal Court Case

LOS ANGELES, CA —  Today, a Federal judge granted a multiracial group of students’ request to testify in support of Harvard’s affirmative action program. Represented by Asian Americans Advancing Justice and  Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, these individuals will be the only students speaking in support of Harvard during testimony in the lawsuit challenging Harvard’s race-conscious holistic admissions policy (Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. Harvard).

“This case will dictate the future of our country and define the opportunities afforded to millions of children of color across our nation,” said Nicole Ochi, supervising attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. “It will determine whether colleges are permitted to pursue racial diversity, to consider the vast racial disparities in educational opportunity when considering an applicant’s potential, and to see students holistically, instead of the sum of their numbers. ”

“We are pleased that our racially diverse coalition of students will have a voice as trial proceeds in this matter as they can best attest to the ongoing need for and value of campus diversity today,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Harvard’s holistic, individualized consideration of race addresses the pervasive inequalities that persist across our society. Any efforts to reverse this approach is a threat to colleges and universities nationwide. We will continue to fight back against Ed Blum’s vicious and poorly coordinated attempts to attack affirmative action across our country. Forty years of precedent affirms the constitutionality of a university’s limited use of race in college admissions”

SFFA, the anti-affirmative action group, opposed the request to hear students’ testimony but the judge disagreed, writing that student experiences before, during, and after their time at Harvard are vital to the case.

Sally Chen, a senior at Harvard, is the child of low-wage immigrant workers from China and was admitted to Harvard because of the contributions and diversity that she would bring to the university, notwithstanding her counselor’s advice that her SAT scores were low for Ivy League schools.

“Race-conscious admissions is not a panacea for all of the inequity in the education system or on college campuses,” said Sally, “but I believe it is a critical policy to open the doors to an elite university like Harvard for all students of color, including Asian Americans like me.” Sally will now be able to testify at the hearing.  

Itzel Vasquez-Rodriguez, a Xicana graduate of Harvard said that Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policy was a key consideration in her decision to apply.

“I was worried that Harvard was too white, elite, and expensive. But I believed that if a school took race into account, they would be a more inviting and diverse institution,” said Itzel.  “Banning the consideration of race at Harvard would cost the university some of its best students and move the school backwards, rather than forwards, in terms of offering quality educational opportunities and training to the next generation of leaders.”

Sarah Cole, a Black American graduate of Harvard said, “Race-blind admissions is an act of erasure. To try to not see my race is to try to not see me at all. No aspect of my life has been untouched by my race. I did not just commit to excelling when I was a preteen—I did so despite being told by multiple white teachers that I was not good or smart enough. I did not just have one of the highest GPAs at my high school; I earned those grades while racial slurs were spewed at me. And I did not just apply to the top colleges; I did so while working a part-time job where customers laughed at me in my Stanford shirt because I did not ‘look like’ I could get into a school like that.”

Asian Americans Advancing Justice stands for racial equity in education, and we look forward to presenting these critical student perspectives on race-conscious admissions.

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About Asian Americans Advancing Justice

Asian Americans Advancing Justice is a national affiliation of five leading organizations advocating for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans and other underserved communities to promote a fair and equitable society for all. The affiliation’s members are: Advancing Justice | AAJC (Washington, DC), Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco), Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, Advancing Justice – Atlanta, and Advancing Justice – Chicago.

About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination.  Now in its 55th year, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is continuing its quest to “Move America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights.

Contact

Jessica Jinn, Director of Communications, Advancing Justice-LA, jjinn@advancingjustice-la.org, 213-241-8817

Derrick Robinson, Director of Communications, Lawyers’ Committee, DRobinson@LawyersCommittee.org, 202-662-8317

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