Groups file briefs with Supreme Court defending affirmative action
It seems everyone in higher education has something to say about affirmative action. Judging by the dozens of briefs filed Monday with the Supreme Court, they are strongly in favor of it.
Of course, there are also those who oppose affirmative action and hope the Supreme Court will use cases involving Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to end it. They had an earlier deadline, in May. To find out why, check out this article on these 34 memories.
Many more briefs were submitted on Monday (although the Supreme Court does not normally consider the volume of briefs in its decisions). But they represented individual colleges, individual scholars, and associations advocating for Harvard and UNC.
A Brief from Ivy League Institutions (beyond Harvard) and the California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon, Duke, Emory, Vanderbilt and Johns Hopkins universities; the University of Chicago; and Washington University in St. Louis said, “The Amici speak with one voice to underscore the profound importance of the diversity of the student body, including racial and ethnic diversity, to their educational missions. The diversity sought by amici in their admissions processes is nuanced and multifaceted; it encompasses a myriad of perspectives, talents, experiences, goals, backgrounds, and interests… Diversity encourages students to challenge their own assumptions, test received truths, and appreciate the complexity of the modern world.
The president of the University of California system and the chancellors of UC’s 10 campuses have said their system is an example of what the court should avoid.
“For the past 25 years, UC has been such a laboratory[y] for experimentation,” the brief states. “After Proposition 209 [which banned affirmative action] prohibits the consideration of race in admissions decisions at public universities in California, freshmen from underrepresented minority groups fell precipitously at UC and fell 50% or more on UC’s most selective campuses. Since then, UC has implemented numerous racially neutral measures designed to increase diversity of all kinds, including racial diversity…These programs have enabled UC to make significant gains in its diversity across the system. Yet despite its considerable efforts, UC struggles to recruit a sufficiently racially diverse student body to experience the educational benefits of diversity. The shortfall is especially apparent on UC’s most selective campuses, where African American, Native American and Latino students are underrepresented and widely report struggling with feelings of racial isolation.
more than 50 Roman Catholic colleges and universities submitted a brief that said, “Catholic teachings emphasize the dignity of each individual and the importance of service to the underrepresented. Diversity creates a learning environment that promotes the educational goals of Catholic colleges and universities, including rigorous reflection, understanding and empathy for people of different backgrounds, concern for the poor and underserved, and leadership at the service of others.
The American Council on Education, along with 39 other academic associations, weighed with an argument more focused on the Constitution, and the First Amendment in particular, than on diversity (although there has been a lot of talk about diversity).
“Considerable deference is due to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, such as the diversity of the student body, which are central to its identity and educational mission,” the ACE brief states. “Colleges and universities cannot sustain the ‘vigorous interchange of ideas’ that characterizes so much of the American tradition without a continued national commitment to academic freedom. In higher education, there are few places where the need for autonomous decision-making is more acute than in the admissions process.
And the brief pointed out that any change in those traditions would affect far more than the competitive colleges that are parties to the case.
“This includes institutions whose educational mission would be significantly compromised if a race-neutral admissions process undermined student diversity within a particular program or an institution as a whole: a Bachelor of Fine Arts program -arts at Fordham [University] who works hand in hand with a historically black dance company; the nation’s only four-year fine arts institution dedicated to contemporary Native American and Alaska Native arts [the Institute of American Indian Arts]; a historically black school of divinity aspiring to exemplify racial unity for the nation.
Or Judson University, which says a “diverse student body is” central to [its] mission as a Christ-centered institution. According to the ACE brief, “As stated by the university, a racially and ethnically diverse student body goes hand in hand with Judson University’s mission to equip students to be ambassadors of the Christ in this diverse world that God has created”.
The ACE brief also categorically rejected the idea that equity can somehow be equated with admissions that only consider grades and standardized test scores.
“Quantitative measures seen in a vacuum are an inaccurate measure of a student’s qualifications or anticipated contribution,” the memoir states. “Test results and grades provide some information, of course, but the judgment that these measures are an insufficient measure of qualifications to attend a particular institution is entitled to deference. Colleges and universities should enjoy the freedom to experiment with how best to assemble a student body that furthers the institution’s mission and goals.
Impact on Asian Americans
Several groups have filed briefs arguing that Asian Americans benefit from affirmative action. This runs counter to lawsuits against Harvard and UNC, which claim otherwise.
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, for example, filed a brief (on behalf of itself and 121 other Asian groups or individuals) that read, “The idea that racially-conscious admissions policies discriminate against Asian Americans rests on and perpetuates harmful stereotypes against Asian Americans. The Asian American community is large and varied, including first-generation college students and children whose parents’ occupations ensured their immigration; the children of working-class refugees and multigenerational Americans; speakers of over 300 languages; budding entrepreneurs, artists, teachers and more.
Many of these students need and want affirmative action, the brief states.
It included a statement from Jassyran Kim, a Boston management consultant who graduated from Davidson College in 2020. She is half Cambodian and half white.
At Davidson, because of what she called an “Asian hierarchy,” it was assumed that Kim’s friends would be Japanese and Chinese Americans whose families had lived in the United States for generations. “Our experiences were different and I didn’t feel a connection. I became friends with mostly African American and Latino students,” she wrote, explaining why she didn’t fit in with most students. Asians there.
She wrote that she was often the only Asian American woman in economics classes.
“This isolation made it harder to speak up when I disagreed with others’ points of view, as I didn’t want to be labeled as ‘that girl’ who kept ‘causing trouble’ by pushing my classmates and my teachers to recognize their respective privileges and the ways their actions impact underrepresented people like me,” Kim said.
And there was a brief filed by the Association of American Medical Schools (with many other associations working in health education).
“As confirmed by an overwhelming body of scientific research compiled over decades, diversity literally saves lives by ensuring that the country’s increasingly diverse population will be served by competent healthcare professionals to meet their needs,” indicates memory.
“It is of course neither appropriate nor possible for all minority patients to be treated by minority health care professionals,” the brief states. “But medical educators have learned — through scientific research and years of experience — that health disparities can be minimized when professionals have learned and worked alongside colleagues from different racial and ethnic backgrounds in environments that reflect the ever-increasing diversity of the society the profession serves. Thus, diversity in medical education produces better health outcomes, not only because minority professionals are often more willing to serve (and often very effective in serving) minority communities, but because all physicians become better practitioners overall through a diverse working and learning environment.”