High School Students File for Amicus Status in Harvard Admissions Lawsuit

Two high school students who hope to attend the College filed a legal brief supporting Harvard's race-conscious admissions process, which has been challenged in an ongoing lawsuit that accuses the University of race-based discrimination.

The students, high school senior Jason Fong and a high school sophomore identified as M. A. in the legal documents, filed for amicus status—which would allow them to submit briefs and declarations to be treated as evidence and participate in oral arguments at different points in the case—on Dec. 12. They seek to join a group of current, prospective, and graduated Harvard students defending the College’s race-conscious admissions policies, who were granted amicus status in Dec. 2015 after their motion to intervene in the lawsuit was declined.

According to the motion, Fong, who is Asian American, has applied for admission to the Harvard College Class of 2021 and hopes to argue against the “claim that Asian American applicants are harmed by Harvard’s race-conscious holistic admissions policy.” M. A., who is of Pacific Islander descent, intends to apply for admission to Harvard in the future, according to the brief. Both are currently attending public schools in Southern California.

Harvard College Office of Admissions and Financial Aid
The Harvard College Office of Admissions and Financial Aid located at 86 Brattle Street.

“I feel as though oftentimes Asian Americans are kind of used as a wedge group within the affirmative action debate. We’re kind of used to disparage other minority groups that may benefit from affirmative action,” Fong said in an interview. “That’s definitely why I wanted to voice my opinion as an Asian American who feels that we as a community benefit from affirmative action.”

Fong and M. A. are represented by Asian Americans Advancing Justice–Los Angeles, a legal and civil rights organization.

“As an Asian American civil rights group that supports affirmative action...we thought it was important that there were no Asian American applicants that were in that student group,” Nicole Ochi, the supervising attorney at AAAJ–LA for the high school students, said referring to the students who have already been granted amicus status. “We saw our role as recruiting more Asian American students whose voices could be a part of that diverse multi-racial coalition.”

The lawsuit started with a complaint filed by anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions in 2014 that alleged “holistic” admissions policies employed by Harvard put Asian American applicants at a disadvantage. Additionally, SFFA alleged that the University uses “racial balancing” and “racial quotas” when crafting each admit class.

Fong and M. A.’s motion states that the students seek to argue that considering race and ethnicity in college admissions can remedy the “adverse impact” some admissions practices have on the overall diversity of an admitted class. Examples of these admissions practices cited in the filing include “‘legacy’ applicants, Early Action, and reliance on the SAT.

AAAJ–LA hopes to have Fong and M. A. join the current amici in support of Harvard, who filed a brief defending Harvard’s affirmative action policies earlier this October.

Representatives from SFFA declined to comment on the motion.

—Staff writer Michael E. Xie can be reached at michael.xie@thecrimson.com.

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