Asian American Civil Rights Groups File Amicus Briefs in Support of Holistic Admissions in Higher Education

August 1, 2022


Michelle Boykins, Advancing Justice – AAJC,

Niketa Kumar, Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, 

Liza Ameen, AJSOCAL,

Kevin Hsia, Advancing Justice – Chicago,

James Woo, Advancing Justice – Atlanta,

Asian American Civil Rights Groups File Amicus Briefs in Support of Holistic Admissions in Higher Education

Washington, D.C. – Today, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice) filed two amicus briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court in SFFA v. Harvard, affirming our longstanding support for race-conscious admissions in higher education

The five organizations comprising the Advancing Justice affiliation, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Lawyers For Civil Rights, and pro bono counsel Arnold & Porter filed an amicus brief on behalf of a multiracial group of alumni students of color at Harvard who support holistic admissions policies that take into account the entirety of a student’s assets and experiences. 

In their brief, the student and alumni amici attested to how a diverse campus benefits all students, including addressing racial isolation and increasing cross-racial understanding and cultural competency that better prepared them for their professional careers. Asian American amici also affirmed benefiting from race-conscious admissions policies at Harvard, which provided them the opportunity to share their whole story, including their race and ethnicity, background, and diverse experiences.

The Advancing Justice affiliation with pro bono counsel, Ballard Spahr, submitted a separate amicus brief joined by 37 Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) civil rights groups, advocacy organizations, professionals, and student organizations in support of race-conscious admissions programs that improve equal access to educational opportunities for all.

The amicus brief affirms that Harvard and UNC’s race-conscious admissions programs do not discriminate against AAPI students, but rather expand their access to higher education. The brief also highlights the educational benefits of racial diversity for AAPI communities and asserts that eliminating the consideration of race in admissions programs will harm AAPI and other students of color.

“For centuries, communities of color, including Asian Americans, have struggled against racial discrimination and faced systemic barriers to education, employment, and immigration, among other challenges,” said John C. Yang, President and Executive Director of Advancing Justice – AAJC. “Race, ethnicity, and our lived experiences are integral parts of our personal story and collective history. Holistic admissions ensures all students have the opportunity to share their whole story in addition to their academic achievements.”

“Our communities know better than to give into extremist strategist Edward Blum’s years-long mission to deny Black, Latinx, Asian American, and other communities of color equal voting rights and educational opportunities,” said Aarti Kohli, Executive Director of Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus. “As a parent, my children have had more chances to grow and thrive because of affirmative action, diversity, and anti-discrimination programs in our education systems. As a civil rights lawyer, there’s no question these attacks on the constitutionality of race conscious programs are a thinly veiled strategy to limit educational opportunities for all students of color.” 

“For too long, the model minority myth has propagated a false premise that AAPIs don’t benefit from race conscious admissions practices,” said Connie Chung Joe, CEO, Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California (AJSOCAL). “The reality is that our communities also face discrimination and barriers to opportunities that race conscious admissions can address. And for AAPI students and other students of color, having a racially diverse student body is not only important to their educational experience, but often necessary to fully articulate the hurdles, achievements, and personal development experiences intrinsic to college admissions evaluations.”

Justice Roberto A. Rivera-Soto, former Justice of the Supreme Court of New Jersey, former partner/now senior counsel at Ballard Spahr LLP, adds, “We are proud to work with Advancing Justice to support holistic admissions policies that have allowed countless numbers of students to attain great heights and contribute to bettering society for us all. We must continue to cultivate the potential of all students — including all who have struggled and continue to struggle against discrimination — to bring us closer to the promise of an equitable society we all deserve.”


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, Advancing Justice Southern California (AJSOCAL), Advancing Justice – Atlanta, and Advancing Justice – Chicago.

Ballard Spahr

Ballard Spahr is an Am Law 100 law firm with more than 600 lawyers in 15 U.S. offices, serving clients across industry sectors in litigation, transactions, and regulatory compliance. We provide clients—from startups to Fortune 500 companies, governments, and nonprofit organizations—with a comprehensive scope of practice and strong regional market knowledge. Ballard Spahr consistently ranks among the top 50 law firms in the annual Am Law Pro Bono Report and is the recipient of numerous awards and honors for outstanding commitment to pro bono representation.