Over 80 Major Companies Submit Briefings In Defense of Positive Action Ahead of Coming SCOTUS Term – NBCNEWS

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mee set for Supreme Court to hear pleadings in two consolidated cases that could change the nature of affirmative action in higher education, more than 80 companies have signed two amicus briefs to defend diversity in higher education.

Students for Fair Admission v. Harvard could have far-reaching implications for higher education admissions outside of Harvard and the University of North Carolina, the two schools being sued. By signing on to these briefsbusiness and technology leaders have affirmed the importance of diversity in the workforce.

Education is supposedly the great equalizer, but equality has yet to be updated. And yet groups like Students for Fair Admissions are chasing efforts to improve opportunities for diverse groups of students.

Positive action creates diversity in the workplace

Those who support the use of race as part of a holistic admissions process argue that because diversity is vital to business and industry, higher education institutions should ensure meaningful diversity in the students admitted. Corporate supporters include Ikea, Google, Apple, Proctor & Gamble and Intel. (See the full list here).

according to tThe NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the company’s signatories represent more than five million employees and trillions in annual revenue. The third short from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, IBM and Aeris Communications spoke specifically about the importance of racial diversity within science and engineering. The brief also outlined how even more underrepresented students would be if race were omitted as an admission factor.

This briefing is one of many submitted this week. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Asians Americans Advances Justice submitted an amicus letter on behalf of several Harvard students and Alumni. Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee, said the experiences of the diverse group of students and alumni call for positive action.

“Affirmative action appropriately broadens the lens to identify merit, talent and potential,” Hewitt said. “Not only does this benefit students of color who have been systematically denied equal access to higher education, it also benefits students from all backgrounds.”

In conversation with NewsOne, Michaele N. Turnage Youngsenior counsel at LDF, said the filings are essential to provide the court with context for how these legal considerations work in the real world.

“The court knows the law, but the court may not have the real experience of what it’s like to work in a science and technology company, and really need a diverse pipeline of graduates to fill your business so you can do the very best when it comes to technological innovation,” explains Turnage Young. “Weighing amici curiae in cases is about making sure the court benefits from all the real-life experiences relevant to that particular case.”

Positive action cases can change university admission

While the role of affirmative action has changed over the years, the battle over who has the right to visit elite institutions remains. And the two cases involving Students for Fair Admissions could fundamentally change admission policies and opportunities for black and other students of color.

Turnage Young, who represents more than two dozen Harvard student and alumni organizations as amici curiae, said the applications are important and more can be expected.

“Affirmative action is really just the very limited consideration of race as one of the hundreds of factors universities consider when deciding who to admit,” she explained. “The legal argument we have made on behalf of our clients—25 Harvard student and alumni organizations—is that if colleges are to pursue the educational benefits of diversity, they must be able to have the freedom to compose a class. which are diverse along many lines, including racial diversity.”

Shruthi Kumar, co-chair of the Harvard South Asian Association, told NewsOne that considering race as a factor in admissions provides an opportunity to show their full selves. Kumar explained that without understanding her background, experiences have a very different meaning and relevance when performed by another student.

David Lewis, the political president of the Havard Black Student Association, argued that consideration of race is necessary as part of a holistic admissions process.

“Race-conscious admission is so important to maintain the quality and fairness of education for all,” Lewis said. “When I sit in my civics classes and discuss different social phenomena, I think that if there are not several people from all backgrounds, ethnicities and races, the quality of the discussion is so much less. I think we all benefit from diversity here.”

Positive action programs in higher education

Finding a balance in a holistic university admissions process has been a long evolving discourse. Different schools use different frameworks to determine which students offer admission. This becomes a bigger problem in schools that are considered “selective” or “high grade”.

But without affirmative action policies and programs, enrollment of black and Latino students at many institutions could drop significantly, potentially creating racialized levels of access to higher education. Turnage Young pointed to a decline in enrollment after California passed Proposition 209 in 1996.

“At Harvard, the experts estimate that if they are excluded from the limited focus on race in admission, the population of black Latinx Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students could tie in by nearly 50 percent,” Turnage Young said. “The state flagship universities there, so at UC Berkeley, you saw this decline in color students, and the same thing happened at UCLA.”

According to an 2020 University of California, San Francisco Study, nearly 30 years after Proposition 209, there has been some “recovery” in the enrollment of black and Latino students in California medical schools. But the omission of using race as a consideration created equality gaps that schools had to innovate to overcome. Rather than struggling to restore diversity gains, educational institutions could focus on improving student experiences and support.

Students thrive in a more diverse environment

Kumar and Lewis say the holistic admissions process provides a more robust academic experience. Kumar said companies should show direct, tangible support for diversity, alongside slogans and recognizing certain affinity months. If people want to support future leaders, they need to think about who they support and how they provide that support.

“A world where race-conscious admission is illegal wouldn’t give all young people an equal opportunity to get into those positions,” Kumar said. “It affects future generations who will be in this workforce, who will hold leadership positions and what kind of world is being created to make people feel comfortable, seen, welcome and valued.

Lewis said fairness and fairness in opportunity for all are at stake in the Supreme Court cases this fall. He also sees attempts to reverse university admissions as exacerbating persistent inequalities in power and wealth, limiting equal access to educational opportunities.

“It’s not just about the numbers on your application and how they compare,” he explained. “Numbers can never take into account the full holistic view of an applicant. We have to look at where they come from, what they went through to get that feat and how they played a part and every factor.”


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