Asian American students are not disenfranchised by affirmative action

Sonali Muthukrishnan, Senior Columnist

Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard was heard by the Supreme Court in October to eliminate race-conscious admissions. The case, headed by UT Alum Edward Blum, is just one example of Asian American students being weaponized in the fight to dispose of affirmative action. 

While public perception and cases like Blum’s make it seem like affirmative action negatively impacts Asian American students, the process benefits all communities of color proportionally. Through multiple supreme court cases, affirmative action has evolved into a non-quota based process that looks to address systemic inequalities in higher education.

Affirmative action actively addresses systemic inequalities in higher education by increasing student body diversity. Therefore, Asian American students are not disenfranchised by affirmative action. 

The National Asian Pacific American Law Student Association’s (NAPALSA) UT chapter recently helped author a statement commenting on affirmative action. 

“AANHPI students are too often cast as a monolithic model minority in arguments against affirmative action… fewer than 15% of Hmong, Laotian, and Cambodian Americans reach the same level of academic achievement—among the lowest rates of educational attainment in the country,” NAPALSA said. “The idea that race-conscious admissions only negatively impact AANHPI students erases the experiences of millions of AANHPI students.”

The 2022 Asian American Voter Survey reports that 19% of Asian Americans do not support affirmative action.

“The backlash against affirmative action basically works under the assumption that to eliminate racism we need to stop thinking about race, which is qualitatively untrue,” said Laurel Mei-Singh, assistant professor of geography and Asian American Studies. “In order to dismantle racism…we need to acknowledge those histories…and we need to implement policies to address it.” 

While it may seem like diversity is rampant on college campuses, student bodies maintain a majority of white students. UT, a university known for its diversity, has a 36.8% white population. While the state of Texas has an Asian American population of 5.5%, the University’s student population over-represents Asian American students at 20.6%. 

“I think for people of color, it’s definitely this feeling of there’s only few opportunities for everyone to go around…because of that somehow the idea of more access, or the idea of that scares people because it almost feels like they’re like, their opportunities are being taken away,” said Pradhitha Boppana, English and Race, Indigeneity and Migration junior. “But it’s not true. It’s just that more opportunities are being set in place.”

All students of color benefit from affirmative action policies. While these policies are not perfect, they look to address the institutionalized discrimination people of color face in the college admissions process. 

States without race conscious policies, like California’s public university system, display exactly what happens when affirmative action is not in place. An Urban Institute study reports that Black and Latine students are proportionally underrepresented in California’s more selective public institutions. 

When college admissions are race neutral, students of color are underrepresented and the diversity of the student population suffers. 

Ultimately, affirmative action does not harm Asian American students as it helps less represented parts of the Asian community gain access to higher education and equal opportunities.

It’s not that Asian American students are disenfranchised with race-conscious admissions, it is that universities are looking for more than just academic merit,” Michelle Nuygen, UT Law Student and Vice President of Texas Law APALSA, said in an email statement. “No one is taking anyone’s spots. Race is one point in the overall holistic review of an applicant.”

Muthukrishnan is a government freshman from Los Gatos, California.