Students, faculty and community members gathered Thursday night to discuss affirmative action and its connection with the Asian-American community in a panel titled “Creating Racial Wedges: Affirmative Action on Trial.”
Focusing on the Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard University case currently in court, the discussion aimed to educate about affirmative action and its impact on the Asian-American community. The suit claims Harvard limits the number of Asian Americans it will admit each year.
Julie J. Park, associate professor of education at the University of Maryland, and Pranav Jani, associate professor of English at Ohio State, served as the expert panelists for the event.
Park started the evening by explaining the history of affirmative action, reaching back to the 1978 University of California v. Bakke Supreme Court landmark case. The results of this case made racial quotas illegal. The ongoing case with Harvard is determining whether the Harvard’s admission process violates this ruling.
Park described the Harvard admission system as more holistic, as it aims to look at test scores as well as student’s background as a whole to understand their access to opportunity. In this “whole-person review,” racial considerations are taken into account as well as a student’s socioeconomic status, and life experiences, among many other factors.
SFFA, feels any racial considerations should not happen and are in court currently to change this policy.
Edward Blum, founder of SFFA, is the driving force for the most recent affirmative action suit and dozens of other civil rights cases in the past. His most notable case resulted in the 2013 changes to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, effectively gutting the bill.
Jani added his expertise and a South-Asian perspective to the conversation as well, addressing larger issues in the Asian-American community. Jani said the myth that Asians collectively are more hard working, more studious and more stable than other marginalized groups is hurting the community, especially in areas like admissions.
“A lot of the debates right now..the way they’re positioning Asian-Americans as falling into model minority myth, they actually ignore the historical situations in which Asians have lived in this country,” Jani said. “When we look at that history, you’ll actually more intertwined with the history and legacy of black people and other people of color and of the general population than anything completely separate.”
As the discussion opened to the audience, topics of parenting, the potential effects of ending affirmative action, and the differences between race conscious admission and affirmative action admissions were addressed.
“Being a parent does make me recommit to policies like affirmative action,” Park said. “Don’t take these policies for granted because our universities could look very different without them.”