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  • Writer's pictureKrista Bontrager

SCOTUS Decision on Affirmative Action in Colleges, Explained

Many of us have heard snippets about the Supreme Court's recent decision about Affirmative Action. We asked Christian attorney, Hohn Cho, who has carefully researched this case, to join us for this important conversation. Mr. Cho reported on his findings and helped us understand why this case matters for Christians.



 

Conversation with Hohn Cho


Mr. Hohn Cho is a Christian attorney who works in the corporate sphere in Southern California (although he started his career in litigation). Mr. Cho is married and is the father of 4 children.


Mr. Cho wrote an article a few years ago regarding Affirmative Action. The article was recently re-posted by our colleague and Academic Advisory Council Member, Dr. Neil Shenvi.


Here's the article referenced in the interview:


Mr. Cho helped us understand these major points:


What is this Supreme Court case even about? What is the background behind it?

The case was initially organized by a man named Edward Blum, a conservative legal activist from a Jewish background. Mr. Blum has been involved in a number of legal cases, particularly those involving issues of fairness and ethnic partiality. Mr. Blum's organization, Students for Fair Admissions, and its Asian members, properly brought a lawsuit...they persevered through losses at two District Courts and one Circuit Court, and eventually they did prevail at the Supreme Court.


What was the case about exactly? Where did Mr. Blum and his colleagues feel injustice was happening?

What may have prompted them and where they may have felt discrimination was in play was in the admissions processes, particularly for Asian students. For example, during Mr. Cho's own college experience, being Asian was NOT a benefit to your chances of being accepted to any university (1980s). Later, the anecdotal and actual data then showed this to be true, that Asians were not getting a fair deal. In fact, investigations of Harvard (2013) demonstrated that Asians WERE being unfairly treated, but Harvard ignored and buried the report.


Many of us have heard Asian stereotypes, such as "the smart Asian"...why would university admissions be seen as something that works against Asian students in particular?

  • The Asian population in America is around 6-7%, but in terms of college classes, Asians make up about 20%. So, Asians are OVER-represented relative to their proportion of the population, but they are UNDER-represented when considering the percentage of applicants. And, also, UNDER-represented according to their credentials academically.

  • Asian students have been required to have higher SAT scores compared with their white, Latino, and black peers' test scores.

In other words, to use Biblical terms, unequal weights and measures were being applied here!


This is confusing...isn't there some sort of standard rubric that everyone is assessed by?

It is very confusing and it involves a very non-transparent process, which is part of the danger! Harvard fought hard to keep their trade secrets under wraps, but some of it came to light during the discovery phase of the lawsuit. Transparency is so important! --John 3:19-21


What do you think will be the lasting impact of this case?

The Equal Protection Clause in the Constitution prevents this type of discrimination against Asians. The Supreme Court recognized that the universities (Harvard and UNC) had important goals in mind, including training future leaders, acquiring new knowledge based on diverse outlooks, promoting a robust marketplace of ideas, and preparing engaged and productive citizens. However, connecting these goals to admissions based on race/ethnicity does not articulate a meaningful connection! By assuming these racial preferences will engender these results is a form of stereotyping, which is forbidden under past court law. In other words, these admission requirements create discrimination for some groups over others.


Do you think schools will try to get around this ruling?

Yes, universities are already trying to find ways to get around it! For example, there is already a move to get rid of SATs and other standardized testing. By eliminating objective criteria/test scores, universities are increasing the subjectivity of admissions.


Affirmative Action does not seem to be helping people who truly need it...Are there other ways to promote diversity, while assisting those who need it most?

  • Increase socioeconomic preferences

  • Increase financial aid

  • Reduce/eliminate importance of legacy, donor, faculty/children of faculty preferences

  • Increase geographic diversity (zip codes)

  • Increase targeted recruiting

  • Increase community college transfers

  • Eliminate early action

These ideas would STILL promote ethnic diversity, but it would do it in a more Biblical way, rather than solely based on race.


Has Affirmative Action ended? Or is it just in education?

The Supreme Court decision was targeted toward college admissions. But, some of the principles underlying this decision will hold true in other cases that may come through the court.


Why do you think Christians should care about this case and the conversation around Affirmative Action overall?

The importance revolves around a Christian's role in activism, public policy, and advocating for justice.


Leviticus 19:15 "Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly."

Injustice to anyone is injustice!


Resources mentioned:


Be sure to check out Hohn Cho's article:

Be sure to check out Hohn Cho's article:


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