Civil Rights Leaders Detail Stakes for Diversity in Higher Education

SCOTUS Challenges to Affirmative Action
For Immediate Release
Michelle Boykins (202) 296-2300, ext. 0144

WASHINGTON, DCThe Leadership Conference Education Fund, Asian Americans Advancing Justice AAJC, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) held a press briefing today to discuss the threats to the longstanding precedent of affirmative action in higher education. On October 31, the Supreme Court will hear two challenges to Harvard College’s and the University of North Carolina’s uses of race, as one of many factors, in college admissions in the cases Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. University of North Carolina. Civil rights leaders spoke on the importance of the cases, civil rights groups' efforts to fight threats to our multiracial democracy, and why admissions policies that are inclusive of students’ racial and ethnic backgrounds are critical to educational equity.

Audio of the call is available here.

Maya Wiley, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference Education Fund, said: “One thing is clear – the future of our multiracial democracy is at stake. The civil rights community is united because we know that we are stronger together, even in the face of the so-called Students for Fair Admissions’ – and Ed Blum’s – attacks on affirmative action. The majority of Americans agree – 87% percent of respondents in our recent poll believe all students benefit from college campuses that reflect the diversity of who we are as Americans. Seventy-nine percent believe diversity contributes to a better education for all students. We must protect this vital tool for ensuring equal opportunity because we know college campuses that reflect the diversity of who we are as Americans make us stronger.”

“The opposition does not speak for Asian Americans, and we reject these false narratives rooted in white supremacy to pit communities of color against one another,” said John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC. “The majority of Asian Americans have consistently supported affirmative action, which allows all students to share their whole story that is inclusive of their identities, histories, and lived experiences. We stand with our Black, Latino, Pacific Islander, and indigenous allies to protect race-conscious admissions so we can continue to break down systemic and racial barriers that have denied too many access to a quality education.”

“The Lawyers’ Committee is honored to advocate before the Supreme Court on behalf of a multiracial coalition of students and alumni at the University of North Carolina, and also for students everywhere who believe colleges are stronger with people from a variety of backgrounds on campus and in the classroom,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “With nearly 45 years of established legal precedent supporting the use of race-conscious admissions to make higher education more equitable and accessible to Black and Brown students, the law, logic and history are on our side. The University of North Carolina and Harvard cases remind us that education remains a battleground for civil rights. It is imperative we continue to recognize and center students of color, whose voices and experiences are at the center of this legal fight, as we collectively continue to push for progress both on campus and beyond.”

“It is imperative that the Supreme Court uphold over 40 years of its own precedent for the sake of the credibility of the Court and of all students in our country to get a fair shot at going to college, regardless of their income, where they grew up, or their racial and ethnic background,” said Janai Nelson, president and director-counsel of the Legal Defense Fund (LDF). “As multiple studies and decades of experience make clear, diverse learning environments enrich the college experience for everyone and better prepare students of all backgrounds for success in today’s multiracial democracy and workplace. These environments are made possible by race-conscious admissions processes that account for the harmful impact of the racism and discrimination in our K-12 education system.”