Boston, Massachusetts – Today, four former and current Harvard students testified during trial in the lawsuit challenging Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policies (Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) vs. Harvard). Represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice) these individuals spoke in support of Harvard’s race-conscious holistic admissions policy and the importance of a diverse campus.
Former and current Harvard students who testified today as come from diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. They include Sarah Cole, a Black American Harvard graduate who currently teaches 5th-grade humanities in Washington, D.C.; Itzel Vasquez-Rodriguez, a Xicana 2017 Harvard graduate currently serving as an Assembly Fellow in Sacramento, CA; Sally Chen, a Chinese American Harvard senior; and Thang Diep, a Vietnamese American Harvard senior.
Other student amici also wholeheartedly support the consideration of race in a holistic admissions program in order to create diverse learning environments and communities include:
“I’m defending affirmative action because higher education should be an opportunity for everyone, especially the historically oppressed,” said Jang Lee, current Harvard senior who is part of the student amici group. “Race-conscious admissions is not a panacea for all the inequity in the education system, but it is a critical policy to open the doors to an elite university to all students of color.”
“When I first stepped foot on Harvard’s campus as a freshman, I was shocked by the culture of whiteness and wealth. My saving grace was Harvard’s black community,” said Fadhal Moore, a Harvard graduate who is also part of the student amici group. “Without the consideration of race in the admissions process, isolated students of color will quickly become tokenized figures forced to carry the weight of often consumptive white inquiry.”
“Diverse campuses help ensure a better learning environment for all students,” said Daniel Lu, current Harvard senior, and also part of the student amici group. “A diverse campus has given me a sense of belonging. I am happy to have peers who I can connect to. Harvard is a better place for Asian Americans thanks to all the students of color who also call it home.”
Holistic race-conscious admissions capture and take into consideration racial inequalities in K-12 education, bias in the tests and test-taking experience, and evaluates individuals beyond just numbers like SAT scores and grade point averages. To deny someone’s race is to deny who they are as a whole person.
“While Harvard’s position on its policies is certainly central in this case, it is the first-hand experience and testimony of our clients that really helps amplify the continuing need for campus diversity today,” said Brenda Shum, director of the Educational Opportunities Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “The testimony of diverse students and alumni is critical to helping the court fully appreciate the educational benefits of diversity on Harvard’s campus today.”
“Our clients’ stories show the importance of race in shaping their identities and what they bring to the table,” said Nicole Ochi, supervising attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. “The fact is that race matters in this country. This case will dictate the future of how our country provides opportunities afforded to millions of children of color across our nation. We are proud to stand by these students as they speak in support of diversity.”
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil rights Under Law and Advancing Justice will continue to defend diversity on campuses and institutions across the country and the constitutionality of considering race in the application process. We stand firmly for racial equity in education and are proud to present these critical student perspectives on race-conscious admissions.
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, D.C.), Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco), Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, Advancing Justice – Atlanta, and Advancing Justice – Chicago.
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Now in its 55th year, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is continuing its quest to “Move America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights. Learn more at Lawyerscommittee.org.
Derrick Robinson, DRobinson@lawyerscommittee.org, 202-662-8317