Today, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), joined by Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) leaders and students, applauds the U.S. Supreme Court for reaffirming in a 7-1 decision the value of diversity in higher education in Fisher v. UT-Austin. Earlier this year, AALDEF filed an amicus brief urging the Court to uphold UT-Austin’s admissions policy on behalf of 18 AAPI education and youth-serving organizations, and 52 higher education faculty and officials.
“We commend the Supreme Court for reaffirming the compelling government interest in racial and other forms of diversity, which provide crucial benefits for AAPIs,” said Khin Mai Aung, Director of the Educational Equity Program at AALDEF. “Though the Court has remanded the case for another review by the Fifth Circuit, we remain confident that UT’s plan is one that achieves diversity in a constitutionally sound manner. More importantly, despite attempts by some to use Asian Americans as a wedge group, the Court’s ruling acknowledges what AALDEF has maintained throughout: that Asian Americans, like all students, benefit from an application process that considers all of each candidate’s qualities, including factors such as the language spoken at home.”
“As a student who was accepted through UT-Austin’s holistic admissions process, I am happy on behalf of other students from communities like mine who may continue to have an equal shot at higher education,” said Joshua Tang, a student admitted under UT-Austin’s holistic admissions policy and former director of operations at UT-Austin’s Students for Equity and Diversity. “The Supreme Court has reaffirmed what Asian American students and all students at UT-Austin have long understood – that diversity is essential for educational institutions like UT to provide the highest quality education to their students
In its decision, the Court agreed with scores of research finding that diversity is educationally beneficial for all students, reaffirming its 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger. Moreover, the consideration of diversity in admissions advances equal opportunity for many Asian American applicants who continue to face educational barriers. Southeast Asians like Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians, most of whom came to the U.S. as refugees, have significantly lower educational attainment and higher poverty rates than many other Asian and non-Asian ethnic groups.
“A more diverse and inclusive campus environment leads to better, more holistic educational experiences for all students, and ultimately for our nation,” said Rep. Mike Honda, Chair Emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. “As a former educator, I wholeheartedly believe that when a student’s race is considered, it must be done in a careful and thoughtful way. While we’ve come a long way in this country, we still have a ways to go and more work to do. Our businesses and industries – all facets of our society – rely on our higher education system to provide the pipeline of talent we need to compete globally. I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to solidly reaffirm the core principles in Grutter. This is welcome news, as leveling the playing field ensures equitable and fair opportunities for Asian American and Pacific Islanders, and all Americans.”
“The Asian American experience has been central to the debate over affirmative action in Fisher v. UT-Austin,” said Thomas Mariadason, staff attorney with AALDEF’s Educational Equity Program. “The Court’s decision reflects what Asian American students and educators from across the country have told us: that universities, not courts, have the requisite expertise to look at what factors in addition to test scores help create a diverse learning environment that prepares students for the real world.”
As evidenced by the numerous amicus briefs filed by universities, college administrators, and educational professionals, educators are keenly aware of the critical importance of diversity to maintain the quality of their educational programs. AALDEF remains committed to working with universities and policy makers to expand equal opportunity and foster diversity in the wake of the Fisher decision.
“The most important thing that I hope university administrators and other decision makers remember is that these initiatives are vital to promoting diversity on campuses,” said Jennifer Tran, UT-Austin undergraduate student and former Director of Operations at UT-Austin’s Asian Desi Pacific Islander American Collective. “Unfortunately, we don’t live in a color- blind society yet. We need initiatives in place to help ensure that everyone gets a fair chance at, and in, college.”
You can read the Supreme Court’s decision in Fisher v. UT-Austin here.
Khin Mai Aung