Two California students have joined the legal effort against an anti-affirmative action lawsuit that was filed against Harvard University two years ago and is making its way through the courts.
The 2014 lawsuit alleges that Harvard places quotas on race-based admissions, squeezing out qualified applicants. The suit was brought by a group called Students for Fair Admissions, a project of an anti-affirmative action group called Project on Fair Representation.
The same group backed a white student, Abigail Fisher, in her anti-affirmative action lawsuit against the University of Texas. Fisher argued she was passed over in favor of students of color. Last July, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the university's consideration of race in admissions.
In the Harvard case, an unnamed Chinese-American student who was not admitted to Harvard is a plaintiff. The student is faulting affirmative action for failing to gain admission.
On Tuesday, an Asian-American legal advocacy group based in Los Angeles weighed in on the lawsuit on the side of Harvard as a friend of the court. Joining with them are two local students who have applied to Harvard, a Chinese-American and a Pacific Islander.
“What we’re really trying to accomplish is bring the voices of Asian-American students who support affirmative action and will benefit from affirmative action to bear in this case," said Nicole Ochi, an attorney with Asian Americans Advancing Justice in L.A.
Ochi said quotas are unconstitutional, but some Asians fear that Asian students with high test scores are passed over for other students of color and they oppose affirmative action as a result. Others, like Ochi's group, support affirmative action programs that can help underrepresented groups, including Cambodians, Hmong, blacks and Latinos, get into top universities.
It's a divide that is exploited by anti-affirmative action activists, Ochi said.
Seventeen-year-old Jason Fong is one of the two SoCal students supporting Harvard's admissions process. Their motion filed this week adds the two to an existing group of Harvard students and applicants who have already joined as friends of the court.
Fong said he hopes to testify in favor of affirmative action.
"Asian students and other students of color have to face institutional barriers that many white students may not, so I think it levels out the playing field." said Fong, a high school senior. He lives in Manhattan Beach and has applied to Harvard, along with other universities.
In 2014, Edward Blum, Students for Fair Admissions president, told NPR that Harvard's policies hurt Asian-Americans more than white students.
"We allege that Harvard has a hard, fast quota limiting the number of Asians it will admit," Blum said. "In addition to that, Harvard has a racial balancing policy that balances the percentages of African-Americans, Hispanics, Whites and Asians."
The Harvard case is pending in a lower court and is in the discovery phase but it could once again bring the affirmative action issue before the Supreme Court.
Students for Fair Admissions has also filed a lawsuit against the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, arguing that it violates the Fourth Amendment and federal civil rights laws with its admissions policies.
The university could achieve diversity through race-neutral means, the group stated on its website. It is seeking a prohibition of racial preferences in the university's admissions.
The university has denied the suit's claims.