AUDIO: Civil Rights Advocates Discuss Risks in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. Harvard

WASHINGTON – Ahead of the Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. Harvard affirmative action trial, civil rights organizations and education experts hosted a press briefing to discuss the importance of diversity and inclusion in higher education, as well as the threats this case poses to efforts to expand opportunity in higher education.

A recording of today’s call is available here

Anjali Thakur-Mittal, managing director for field & member services for The Leadership Conference Education Fund said, “This lawsuit poses a fundamental threat to opportunity for millions of young people. It jeopardizes the right of every college and university to build diverse student bodies. And it threatens efforts to ensure that people of color who were previously excluded through custom and law have the opportunity to attend college. Equal opportunity and affirmative action policies at universities are supported by a broad cross-section of American society and, as the Supreme Court has found, have benefits that extend to all students in our colleges and universities.”

 Adam Fernandez, legislative staff attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) said, “To ensure America’s future leaders are as educated as they are diverse, America needs efforts like affirmative action to challenge the effects of biased admissions criteria, unequal K-12 educational opportunity, and the continuing effects of implicit bias.  Race conscious admissions are settled constitutional law. They are precedent upon precedent upon precedent; Edward Blum’s cynical challenge will fail like so many challenges before it.  MALDEF stands with its allies in the civil rights community in support of affirmative action, and against segregation in higher education.”

Rachel M. Kleinman, senior counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. said, “Race is an integral part of any person’s identity and suppressing it from something as important as a college admissions process is a disservice to both the students applying and the schools. Students’ ability to reach their academic potential and thrive in the multicultural workforce is on the line with this SFFA lawsuit and we hope that the Massachusetts federal court and the court of opinion affirm what we know to be true: that colleges and universities can and must consider race as part of its admissions policies to build a diverse and inclusive student body.”

 Janelle Wong, professor of Asian American Studies at the University of Maryland said, “The system in place now, holistic review, does not allot extra or bonus points based on race. Nor does checking off a box ever translate into automatic admission. Rather, with holistic review, students can provide admissions officers with more information about the box they checked, using essays and letters to convey how racial identity gives meaning to their lives.”

Nicole Ochi, supervising attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles said, “Asian American students absolutely benefit from race-conscious admissions. Affirmative action is still needed to ensure our community can access and benefit from higher education. The fact is that Asian Americans are being used as a cover for a nefarious quest to dismantle affirmative action. Asian Americans Advancing Justice fights every day to end racism against Asian Americans and other people of color, we know that ending the inclusionary consideration of race will worsen, rather than improve, Asian Americans’ ability to get into their colleges of choice.”

 The Leadership Conference Education Fund builds public will for federal policies that promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States.  The Education Fund’s campaigns empower and mobilize advocates around the country to push for progressive change in the United States. For more information on The Education Fund, visit

 Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation’s leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the “law firm of the Latino community”, MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access.

 Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC has a mission to advance the civil and human rights for Asian Americans and to build and promote a fair and equitable society for all.