- One of the persons associated with the case is high-profile anti-affirmation activist Vijay Jojo Chokal-Ingam, brother of actor, writer and producer Mindy Kaling.
The Supreme Court on Oct. 31 began hearing arguments in two cases that challenge affirmative action consideration in admissions at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. The lawsuits have been filed by Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), run by former stockbroker Edward Blum. The group is seeking to overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case Grutter v. Bollinger, which in 2003 found that colleges could consider race in their admissions to have diverse campuses.
Several Indian American students who claimed to have been negatively affected by affirmative action policies in their schools are part of SFFA’s lawsuit.
One of the crusaders on this issue is anti-affirmation activist Vijay Jojo Chokal-Ingam, brother of actor, writer and producer Mindy Kaling. Chokal-Ingam received vast media attention in 2015 when he claimed he had used these practices to his advantage by pretending to be Black 20 years ago to gain entrance into St. Louis School of Medicine, despite holding a lower GPA than the average incoming student.
Speaking about the Supreme Court hearings, Chokal-Ingam told Fox Digital that “it would take more than one Supreme Court decision to achieve their goals.” According to him, “the next battle is going to be enforcement.” He stressed the importance of “getting support from Congress to pressure the Department of Justice and Department of Education to enforce any ruling by the court,” Fox Digital said.
Chokal-Ingam also addressed a “Equal Education Rights for All” rally in from on the Supreme Court on Oct. 30 that was organized by the Asian American Coalition for Education (AACE) and its partner organizations to support SFFA’s lawsuit. “We are standing up for equal rights and opportunity and against racism and discrimination. Echoing what Dr. Martin Luther King famously said, we do not want our children to be judged by their skin color, but by the content of their character and merit,” a AACE press release quoted president Yukong Mike Zhao as saying.
Speaking at the rally, Chokal-Ingam told supporters of his ordeal posing as a Black man to get admission at St. Louis School of Medicine. “I know what is at stake better than anyone,” he said. “I am living proof of the racism and hypocrisy of schools such as Harvard and UNC that discriminate against Asian Americans and White people.” He told those present not to “believe anyone that tells you that affirmative action is essential for a good education.”
Vikas (not his real name), a postgraduate student is part of SFFA’s lawsuit. He told The Quint that he was rejected by Harvard despite his “perfect grades and perfect test scores.” The university does “reject a lot of people who are good,” he told the Indian website. “Maybe they were not impressed by my essay or extra co-curriculars.” Explaining the reasons for joining the lawsuit, he said his problem with Harvard is that they hold people to different standards. It is more difficult to get in if you are Asian American than White, White than Hispanic, Hispanic than African American.”
In the Harvard case, “the charge is that the school’s policy discriminates against Asian Americans,” The Washington Post reported, while the UNC “gave unfair advantages to Black and Hispanic applicants,” the group said. In each case, the universities denied wrongdoing. Lower courts said their practices followed Supreme Court precedent.
“The universities have said they use race as only one factor in a host of individualized evaluations for admission without quotas — permissible under Supreme Court precedents — and that curbing the consideration of race would result in a significant drop in the number of students from underrepresented groups,” as reported by CNN.
SFFA is urging the court to overturn the precedent and they say that the schools should explore and further develop race-neutral alternatives to achieve diversity. Some lower U.S. courts have ruled in favor of the schools finding that the programs used race in a sufficiently limited way to fulfill a compelling interest in diversity.
CNN reports that Blum has hired a conservative boutique law firm, Consovoy McCarthy, to challenge the policies of the two universities. “The firm is composed of several former clerks of Justice Clarence Thomas who has been a critic of affirmative action,” the report adds.
Reporting on today’s hearing, The New York Times said that “by the end of five hours of vigorous and sometimes testy arguments, a majority of the justices appeared ready to reconsider decades of precedents and to rule that the programs were unlawful.” It noted that “such a ruling could jeopardize affirmative action at elite colleges and universities around the nation, decreasing the representation of Black and Latino students and raising the number of white and Asian ones.
Patrick Strawbridge, the lawyer representing SFFA, argued that the Supreme Court had rejected racial classifications in marriage, jury selection and assignment of children to elementary schools.
SFFA and Harvard
The Harvard Crimson traced the history of SFFA, which first sued the university in 2014. In 2019, the district court ruled in favor of Harvard, after which SFFA appealed to the First Circuit Court. “In 2020, the circuit court ruled 2-0 in favor of the University, affirming SFFA’s legal standing to sue but ruling that Harvard did not violate civil rights law,” the Harvard Crimson reported.
Three months later, in February 2021, SFFA appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court agreed in January 2022 to hear the SFFA case. “Over the summer, 81 Republican lawmakers, 20 states, and a former Attorney General submitted briefs in support of SFFA, while hundreds of corporations and universities, including Apple and Google, submitted filings in support of affirmative action,” the report added.
Attitudes on Affirmative Action
A Washington Post poll found that 63 percent of adults support the Supreme Court banning colleges and universities from considering a student’s race and ethnicity when making decisions about student admissions. At the same time, 64% also say that in general, programs designed to increase the racial diversity of students on college campuses are a good thing.
Meanwhile, AAPI Data has revealed that 69 percent of Asian American registered voters support affirmative action, despite being painted as ardent opponents of affirmative action. “By more than a 3-to-1 margin, Asian Americans favor affirmative action in higher education, and their support for the policy has remained consistent since 2014,” AAPI Data said.