UT Asian American Students and Teachers File Brief Supporting Affirmative Action

Thursday, Oct 31, 2013

On behalf of student association Asian Desi Pacific Islander American Collective (APAC) and the Asian/Asian American Faculty and Staff Association (AAAFSA) at the University of Texas at Austin, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) filed an amicus brief in support of UT-Austin's affirmative action policy in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Texas. The case, Fisher v. UT-Austin, is on remand from the Supreme Court after its June 2013 decision affirming that educational institutions have a compelling interest in considering diversity in admissions.

"UT's admissions process is narrowly tailored to encourage both diversity and individualized treatment of Asian American applicants, many of whom face severe social and economic disadvantages akin to Black and Latino students," said Thomas Mariadason, staff attorney at AALDEF. "The benefits of a constitutionally sound affirmative action policy that can consider factors such as refugee status and language spoken at home are clear -- at UT -- and at universities across the nation."

"Affirmative action is about increasing diversity on our campus and giving minority students a fair chance," said Nicholas Chan, UT-Austin student and Director of Political Engagement at APAC. "Only a few years ago, all minority groups combined didn't even make up half of the student population. UT's admissions policy has helped change that. Asian American students at UT and all universities come from many different backgrounds and have different levels of access to resources. Race can shape who we are and what we contribute to our campus. We should not be denied the opportunity to have our full stories considered in college applications."

UT-Austin's admissions policy, which was fashioned to comply with the Supreme Court's 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger decision, guarantees admission to Texas high school seniors in the top 10% of their class. The remaining minority of students are admitted based on an individual review of their overall applications, which takes into account a broad range of factors like academic ranking, leadership, extracurricular activities, diversity factors (including race), and socio-economic status.

Despite claims to the contrary, Asian Americans benefit from UT-Austin's flexible admissions policy. In fact, Asian Americans are admitted at higher percentages under UT-Austin's individualized review process than Black or Latino students. UT's thriving Asian American community has also shown tremendous growth over the last few years, exceeding the percentage of Asian Americans in Texas by more than a factor of five. AALDEF's brief demonstrates that UT-Austin's admission policy allows for consideration of obstacles faced by students from certain Asian subgroups frequently hidden by the aggregation of data into a single "Asian" category, including Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders, many of whom are the children of refugees or are refugees themselves, and would otherwise be denied equal opportunity.

The Asian/Asian American Faculty and Staff Association (AAAFSA) at UT said in a statement:  "AAAFSA supports the use of holistic admissions processes at UT-Austin, which acknowledge and account for the heterogeneity of Asian Pacific American communities and individuals whose experiences reflect vast disparities in ethnic heritages and histories, immigration trajectories, socioeconomic backgrounds, and family education.  The opportunities and advancement offered by a prestigious university such as UT should be accessed through admissions processes that consider a full range of each applicant's potential and attainments, for the betterment of individuals but also for American society as a whole."

Oral arguments will begin in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on November 13.

Download the brief >

Contact:
Thomas Mariadason, 212.966.5932 x.223, tmariadason@aaldef.org