New York, NY—The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), a New York-based civil rights organization, praised the United States Supreme Court decision on June 23rd in Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld the race-conscious affirmative action policy of Michigan Law School.
“This decision is a great victory for civil rights,” said AALDEF Executive Director Margaret Fung. “Although the Court rejected the particular program adopted by the University of Michigan in Gratz v. Bollinger, it recognized that affirmative action is an important tool to promote equal opportunity and racial diversity in higher education.”
“One misconception about affirmative action is that Asians and South Asians are not under-represented in academic institutions, do not face discrimination and have no need for programs that take into account a wide range of factors that circumscribe opportunity,” said Chandra Bhatnagar, AALDEF staff attorney and Director of the South Asian Workers’ Project for Human Rights. He cited a recent national survey which found that 13% of Asian/South Asian females, 4.5 times the rate for white females, completed only an 8th grade education or less. In fact, Asians are underrepresented in numerous fields, such as history (2.2%), sociology (2.2%), English/literature (2.1%), philosophy (1.8%), education (1.6%), psychology (1.4%), political science (1.3%), and law (0.9%).
In addition, affirmative action programs greatly assist many Asian and South Asian families struggling to overcome discrimination. Immigrants and refugees from Southeast Asia have the lowest educational achievement levels of any immigrant group—two out of three Cambodian, Hmong and Laotian Americans do not complete high school.
Justice O’Connor, writing for a 5-4 majority in the Grutter case, affirmed that race was properly considered as one of many factors in the admissions process: “Student body diversity is a compelling state interest that can justify the use of race in university admissions.” She continued, “In order to cultivate a set of leaders with legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry, it is necessary that the path to leadership be visibly open to talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity.”
“Affirmative action not only benefits Asian Americans and other communities of color that have faced past discrimination—it benefits all Americans,” said AALDEF executive director Fung. “The Court has reaffirmed our nation’s commitment to securing diversity in higher education.”
For more information, please contact Margaret Fung, Esq., at 212.966.5932 x201.