Indian Americans disappointed by affirmative action ruling

A Pew Research survey released June 8 showed that 60% of Indian Americans support affirmative action. Even among Indian Americans who lean Republican, 35% support affirmative action.

In an expected decision, the Supreme Court June 29 struck down affirmative action for college admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, saying the practice violated the Constitution's 14th Amendment by discriminating against white and Asian American students.

But several Asian American organizations condemned the ruling, and took to the front lines immediately after the decision was announced, launching protests on the steps of the Supreme Court.

Pew Research survey released June 8 showed that 60% of Indian Americans support affirmative action, while 19% think it is a “bad thing.” Even among Indian Americans who lean Republican, 35% support affirmative action according to the Pew survey.

University of California, San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, one of the highest-ranking Indian Americans in academia, immediately issued a statement saying his campus was committed to diversity, despite the ruling.

He noted that California’s Prop. 209  has prohibited the consideration of race and gender in public college admissions since 1996. “Despite this, we and our fellow UC campuses have carefully and thoughtfully sought effective ways to consider race-neutral alternatives in assessing the individual context of each of our applicants.”

“For our campus, this has resulted in a significant increase in the diversity of our student body over the last decade. We firmly believe that access to quality education contributes significantly to economic mobility and enhances career trajectories, thus transforming the lives of our students and their families,” said Khosla. “We will be examining and working to mitigate any impact today’s decision may have on our campus.”

Aarti Kohli, Executive Director of Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, noted that many students today face significant barriers to attaining the quality education necessary to achieve the much-vaunted American Dream.

“At a moment when our country is increasingly segregated and there are significant gaps in resources for majority-minority schools, we call on Congress, our local elected leaders, and universities to do everything in their power to implement solutions we really need for economic equity and racial justice in our nation,” said Kohli.

In interviews with New India Abroad, Indian American students said they were disappointed by the court’s decision.

Los Altos, California resident Kaizad Taraporevala — who attended Carnegie Mellon University to attain both his undergraduate and Master’s degrees in mechanical engineering — said campus diversity was an integral part of his college experience.

“I was disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision, which will drastically hurt diversity in higher education, affecting the experience for all students,” he said.

Countering the statements of Students for Fair Admissions, which brought about both cases, Taraporevala said he never felt discriminated against during the admissions process at the highly-competitive universities to which he applied. “During my childhood, I was supported and encouraged to take advanced classes. I think it is fair in the admissions process to lift up others who may have slightly lower grades or test scores because they weren’t supported or encouraged in the way I was,” he said.

“Diversity was extremely important to my experience in college. Growing up, my town was mostly white or Asian so most of my friends ended up being white or Asian. In college, I made friends and worked on projects with a wide variety of people, which I feel was very important for my personal development,” said Taraporevala.

Geethanjali Chandroth — who attended the University of California at Riverside for her undergraduate degree and now attends Pepperdine University to attain her Master’s degree in clinical psychology — also expressed her disappointment at the Supreme Court’s majority decision.

“My initial response was: ‘How are we consistently moving backward as a country?’”

“Affirmative action is the foundation of creating a more equitable and just world, truly allowing groups of people who have been historically marginalized to have fewer barriers to accessing a quality education.”

“We live in a nation where college is almost a necessity and therefore, something that needs to be accessible to all people,” said Chandroth.

In his opinion for the six-member majority, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote: "Many universities have concluded wrongly that the touchstone of an individual's identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned, but the color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice."

Justice Clarence Thomas concurred.  "Even in the segregated South where I grew up, individuals were not the sum of their skin color. Then as now, not all disparities are based on race,” he said.

But Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, delivered a sharp rebuke. "It is no small irony that the judgment the majority hands down today will forestall the end of race-based disparities in this country, making the colorblind world the majority wistfully touts much more difficult to accomplish.”

"(This decision) will delay the day that every American has an equal opportunity to thrive, regardless of race,” she said, noting that it will only widen socio-economic gaps between white and Black people. Jackson recused herself from the Harvard case, citing a conflict of interest, but did weigh in on the UNC case.

In his opinion, Roberts left a bit of wiggle room. "Nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant's discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise,” he wrote. Some legal analysts have interpreted Roberts’ statement as saying applicants could write in their college essays about how racial bias may have impacted their lives, but conceded that this part of the ruling is murky, and will require interpretation.

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