California ChangeLawyers, Equal Justice Society, and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of the United States in Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. Harvard. Endorsed by 22 other organizations, the brief asks the Court to uphold more than four decades of precedent allowing the consideration of race as one of many factors in admissions to higher education.
The Supreme Court has established and repeatedly affirmed the use of race as part of a holistic admissions process to create diverse campus communities that benefit all students. Two federal courts have already ruled in Harvard’s favor, overwhelmingly rejecting every argument put forward by SFFA.
In their brief, EJS, ChangeLawyers, and Wilson Sonsini describe SFFA’s “reckless, radical operation” that attacks an educational institution’s right to make its own judgments on how it develops a student body by blinding it to race and ethnicity.
Instead of allowing universities and colleges to consider a broad array of qualifications and characteristics necessary to achieve true diversity, SFFA wants to limit what these institutions consider.
The brief reveals SFFA’s misplaced reliance on California’s experience with Proposition 209 as evidence that the surgical removal of race and ethnicity from admissions is a safe and minor procedure. In truth, California’s Proposition 209 was a dangerous operation that inflicted immediate, palpable harm on many talented Black, Latinx, and other prospective and admitted students.
California’s universities became less diverse, not more. In the three years after Proposition 209, the average enrollment rate of Black and Latinx students declined by 21.3 and 12.7 percent, respectively, at the University of California campuses. As a result, “the path to leadership” became less “open to talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity.”
That decrease in diversity led to precisely the outcome that the Grutter decision warned of: a loss of “confidence in the openness and integrity of the educational institutions.” This is clearly evidenced by the 12 to 13 percent decrease in applications from underrepresented groups the year that Proposition 209 went into effect.
If these harms had afflicted only one generation of Californians, that alone would be reason enough not to repeat SFFA’s operation on the nation as a whole. The reality is that California has still not recovered.
Proposition 209, and the resulting damage to California, is not a model the Court should adopt for the country.
“Institutions of higher learning lose legitimacy in the eyes of the people when they do not reflect the diversity of the communities they exist to serve. Preserving race-conscious admissions policies helps to build trust in the inherent fairness of our American education system,” said Christopher Punongbayan, Executive Director of California ChangeLawyers.
“Systems of white supremacy seek to overtake university and college admissions out of fear of what a racially-equitable world looks like,” said Mona Tawatao, Equal Justice Society Legal Director. “Without the fair shot that holistic admissions provide, generations of talented Black, Latinx, Native American, and AAPI students would be shut out of selective colleges and universities through no fault of their own and to the detriment of us all.”
“We are so proud to have partnered with the Equal Justice Society and ChangeLawyers in seeking to vindicate the Court’s precedent and the interests of students and universities in this important matter,” said Mark R. Yohalem of Wilson Sonsini.
EJS, ChangeLawyers, and Wilson Sonsini join dozens of groups including students, Asian American advocacy organizations, businesses, civil rights groups, universities, and economists in supporting Harvard and rejecting SFFA’s anti-diversity arguments.
Joining EJS, ChangeLawyers, and Wilson Sonsini in filing this brief are:
Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Silicon Valley
Asian/Pacific Bar Association of Sacramento
Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom
Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles Inc.
Black Women Lawyers Association of Northern California
California Asian Pacific American Bar Association
California Association of Black Lawyers
California La Raza Lawyers Association
Charles Houston Bar Association
Cruz Reynoso Bar Association
Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association
East Bay La Raza Lawyers Association
Equal Justice Society
Equal Rights Advocates
Hmong Innovating Politics
Iranian American Bar Association, Northern California Chapter
John M. Langston Bar Association of Los Angeles, Inc.
Latino Community Foundation
Muslim Bar Association of Southern California
Region 9 of the National Bar Association
Santa Clara County Black Lawyers Association
Society of American Law Teachers
Richard T. Fields Bar Association
Wiley Manuel Bar Association