News that the U.S. Department of Justice is considering a civil-rights investigation into the admissions processes of Harvard and other Ivy League colleges for alleged discrimination against Asian American students is getting different reactions from different Asian American organizations.
The New Jersey-based Asian American Coalition for Education said Aug. 4 that it is pleased by the news, calling it “a direct and very positive response to the complaint AACE filed in 2015, representing 64 Asian American organizations nationwide.
“In our complaint, we have compiled overwhelming evidence that Harvard and other Ivy League colleges have been using de facto racial quotas, racial stereotypes and higher admissions standards to discriminate against Asian American applicants. After adjusting for extracurricular activities and other factors, Asian Americans have to score on average 140 points higher than a white student, 270 points higher than a Hispanic student and 450 points higher than a black student on the SAT, in order to get into America’s top universities.
“These discrimination are a clear violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as well as relevant U.S. Supreme Court rulings. It is one of the biggest civil rights issues that Asian Americans are facing today.
“Since 2006, in the face of such severe discrimination, many Asian American students and organizations have filed complaints with the Department of Education and the Department of Justice. However, over the last ten years, the prior administrations have not conducted objective investigation into these complaints. Today, we are very encouraged that the Trump Administration will start looking into this issue, providing Asian American students with equal protection under the laws.”
AACE President Yukong Zhao said, “It is long overdue to the Asian American community, who follows the laws, works hard and has been making tremendous contribution to American economic prosperity and technology leadership in the world. We expect that the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education will take concrete actions to help restore the spirit of American Dream: reward individual efforts and merits, and treat all individuals equally.
“The purpose of our complaint is to eliminate all unlawful discrimination against our children. We believe the fundamental way to achieve diversity is to reduce achievement gap in K-12 education, not through illegal racial balancing during college admissions. We would also support a socioeconomic status-based policy if it effectively helps low-income families.”
Co-complainants in the 2015 action include 80-20 Initiative-Washington, D.C. Area Chapter, Anhui Association of Texas, Beijing Institute of Technology Alumni Association of Silicon Valley, Chinese School of Tomorrow (Orlando, Fla.), Global Organization of People of Indian Origin-Los Angeles Chapter, Henan Association of Northern California, Houston Chinese Alliance, Huazhong University of Science and Technology Alumni Association of Southern California, Korean Parents Organization of Millburn and Short Hills (New Jersey), Overseas Chinese Association of Miami, San Diego Asian Americans for Equality, Texas Guangdong Association, and United Chinese Association of Utah.
AACE also filed an administrative complaint against Yale University, Brown University and Dartmouth College in 2016.
A number of national Asian American civil rights organizations, on the other hand, support affirmative action and are wary of Asian Americans being used to further a conservative agenda.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice), an affiliation of five civil rights organizations, issued the following statement:
“Asian Americans Advancing Justice condemns the White House’s targeting of affirmative action in American universities, and its blatantly political use of the U.S. Department of Justice, a federal agency whose mandate includes protecting and defending civil rights laws, to accomplish its anti-civil rights goals. We reject the administration’s latest explanation that this attempt to further attack affirmative action policies is for the benefit of Asian Americans.
“Under Supreme Court rulings, most recently in June 2016, affirmative action is a specific and established concept that allows universities to consider race as just one of many factors to build diverse campus communities that benefit all students, including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
“Advancing Justice opposes quotas for and discrimination against Asian Americans, and we support affirmative action programs, which allow admissions officers to evaluate applicants holistically. These two concepts are separate and distinct.
“Affirmative action expands educational opportunities for all applicants in a society where cultural and racial biases in testing and access to quality education deny many students equal opportunity. Low-income and working-class Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders significantly benefit from affirmative action policies.
“Advancing Justice-LA is currently representing diverse Asian American and Pacific Islander students and applicants who support and benefit from affirmative action policies in an existing case against Harvard University.
“In the broader context of escalating costs and shrinking access to higher education overall, we believe that if this administration were truly interested in increasing access to higher education, it would focus on the real issues in education access and not systematically erode access for the most vulnerable students. In California, for example, Advancing Justice affiliates are fighting for increased access to higher education for all students, leading a multiracial coalition that will ensure greater resources for college preparation for all underprivileged children, increased seats in public colleges for in-state students, and more resources to help with succeeding in college.
“Since the new administration has been in office, it has been moving very deliberately to operationalize its nativist agenda with policies like this one. Instead of attacking affirmative action programs, the Trump Administration should use its platform to increase opportunities for all students while continuing to address the persistent equity gaps for low-income students and students of color. We support affirmative action and refuse to allow Asian Americans to be used as a wedge between communities of color.”
The affiliation’s members are: Advancing Justice | AAJC (Washington, D.C.), Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco), Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, Advancing Justice-Atlanta, and Advancing Justice-Chicago.
The Japanese American Citizens League said in a statement in 2015 that it is “deeply disturbed by recent attempts to dismantle affirmative action policies in higher education and opposes anti-affirmative action movements that use Asian Pacific Americans as their mascot.”