Committee of 100 Urges Constructive Dialogue and Mutual Cooperation Around Affirmative Action in Higher Education

(New York) —Admissions policies in higher education are being debated again. From the ongoing 2014 lawsuit by Students for Fair Admission against Harvard University alleging discrimination against Asian Americans by holding them to higher admissions standards, to the Justice Department’s current investigation of the same alleged race-based discrimination in Harvard’s admission policies, Asian Americans are finding themselves at the center of the affirmative action debate. These charges of bias are serious and should be investigated. Yet, in the ongoing discussion, the Committee of 100 urges all stakeholders to engage in thoughtful and constructive dialogue, and to refrain from rhetoric or actions that would pit one racial group against another and be unnecessarily divisive or counterproductive.

Providing the best education for the next generation is an essential part of the American Dream. Many immigrants have made major sacrifices so that their children can have the best educational opportunities. The Committee of 100 recognizes the anxiety and concerns of Asian American parents that potential racial discrimination may diminish educational opportunities for their children and deprive them of equal access to the American Dream. Asian Americans, native-born and immigrant alike, wish to be treated as individuals, not discriminated against unfairly on the basis of their race or ethnicity.

That Asian Americans are making their voices heard around this issue is commendable. For too long, Asian Americans have been stereotyped as being unwilling to stand up and speak out. But now, they have risen to their feet and are advocating for their equal rights.

Yet in the bigger picture, it is important to remember that Asian Americans have also benefited from civil rights protections and programs that promote diversity, whether they have been called “affirmative action.” Beyond education, Asian Americans will continue to require and rely on such protections and programs, especially in the workplace and in government contracts where qualified Asian Americans still often encounter glass ceilings or discriminatory treatment.

Committee of 100‏ Members.

At the same time, in the realm of higher education, efforts to increase diversity among other minorities do not have to come at the expense of Asian American students. In fact, in the current lawsuit against Harvard, any discrimination Asian students may face is unrelated to such overall diversity efforts.

The issues around higher education access are complex but not new. All families, not just Asian Americans, want the best educational opportunities for their children. Addressing these complex issues will require a willingness on the part of those involved to explore a variety of creative solutions, from expanding seats at colleges and universities to improving college access for disadvantaged students, among other possibilities.

Questions of access to higher education have now become a political issue as much as a legal issue. As we await action from the Justice Department, Asian Americans would do well to proactively reach out to other concerned Americans to seek long-term solutions and redress beyond the courts. For the collective and long-term future of our children and the future of America, we need to work together to ensure equal opportunity and equal protection for all.  A diverse and inclusive society only makes America stronger.  Achieving this will require the wisdom, ingenuity, resources, trust, and goodwill of all involved, and a shared commitment to each other as fellow Americans.


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