FOR RELEASE ON AUGUST 1, 2022
California ChangeLawyers, Equal Justice Society, Wilson Sonsini File Amicus Brief in Support of College Admissions Policies That Foster Diversity
PALO ALTO, Calif. (August 1, 2022) – California ChangeLawyers, Equal Justice Society, and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, today filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of the United States in Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. Harvard. Endorsed by 23 other organizations, the brief asks the Court to uphold more than four decades of precedent allowing the consideration of race as one of many factors in admissions to higher education.
The Supreme Court has established and repeatedly affirmed the use of race as part of a holistic admissions process to create diverse campus communities that benefit all students. Two federal courts have already ruled in Harvard’s favor, overwhelmingly rejecting every argument put forward by SFFA.
In their brief, EJS, ChangeLawyers, and Wilson Sonsini describe SFFA’s “reckless, radical operation” that attacks an educational institution’s right to make its own judgments on how it develops a student body by blinding it to race and ethnicity.
Instead of allowing universities and colleges to consider a broad array of qualifications and characteristics necessary to achieve true diversity, SFFA wants to limit what these institutions consider.
The brief reveals SFFA’s misplaced reliance on California’s experience with Proposition 209 as evidence that the surgical removal of race and ethnicity from admissions is a safe and minor procedure. In truth, California’s Proposition 209 was a dangerous operation that inflicted immediate, palpable harm on many talented Black, Latinx, and other prospective and admitted students.
California’s universities became less diverse, not more. In the three years after Proposition 209, the average enrollment rate of Black and Latinx students declined by 21.3 and 12.7 percent, respectively, at the University of California campuses. As a result, “the path to leadership” became less “open to talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity.”
That decrease in diversity led to precisely the outcome that the Grutter decision warned of: a loss of “confidence in the openness and integrity of the educational institutions.” This is clearly evidenced by the 12 to 13 percent decrease in applications from underrepresented groups the year that Proposition 209 went into effect.
If these harms had afflicted only one generation of Californians, that alone would be reason enough not to repeat SFFA’s operation on the nation as a whole. The reality is that California has still not recovered.
Proposition 209, and the resulting damage to California, is not a model the Court should adopt for the country.
“Institutions of higher learning lose legitimacy in the eyes of the people when they do not reflect the diversity of the communities they exist to serve. Preserving race-conscious admissions policies helps to build trust that our American education can be more fair and equitable,” said Christopher Punongbayan, Executive Director of California ChangeLawyers.
“Systems of white supremacy seek to overtake university and college admissions out of fear of what a racially-equitable world looks like,” said Mona Tawatao, Equal Justice Society Legal Director. “Without the fair shot that holistic admissions provide, generations of talented Black, Latinx, Native American, and AAPI students would be shut out of selective colleges and universities through no fault of their own and to the detriment of us all.”
“We are so proud to have partnered with the Equal Justice Society and ChangeLawyers in seeking to vindicate the Court’s precedent and the interests of students and universities in this important matter,” said Mark R. Yahalom of Wilson Sonsini.
EJS, ChangeLawyers, and Wilson Sonsini join dozens of groups including students, Asian American advocacy organizations, businesses, civil rights groups, universities, and economists in supporting Harvard and rejecting SFFA’s anti-diversity arguments.
- Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Silicon Valley
- Asian/Pacific Bar Association of Sacramento
- Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom
- Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles Inc.
- Black Women Lawyers Association of Northern California
- California Asian Pacific American Bar Association
- California Association of Black Lawyers
- California La Raza Lawyers Association
- California ChangeLawyers
- Charles Houston Bar Association
- Cruz Reynoso Bar Association
- Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association
- East Bay La Raza Lawyers Association
- Equal Justice Society
- Equal Rights Advocates
- Hmong Innovating Politics
- Iranian American Bar Association, Northern California Chapter
- John M. Langston Bar Association of Los Angeles, Inc.
- Latino Community Foundation
- Muslim Bar Association of Southern California
- Region 9 of the National Bar Association
- Santa Clara County Black Lawyers Association
- Society of American Law Teachers
- Richard T. Fields Bar Association
- Wiley Manuel Bar Association
California ChangeLawyers (formerly California Bar Foundation) is a statewide foundation that empowers the next generation of lawyers, judges, and activists to create a more diverse legal profession, a fair justice system, and a better California. We believe that a state as diverse as California should have a justice system led by advocates of all ethnicities & races.
The Equal Justice Society is transforming the nation’s consciousness on race through law, social science, and the arts. Our legal strategy and advocacy aims to broaden conceptions of present-day discrimination to include unconscious and structural bias by using social science, structural analysis, and real-life experience.
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. For more than 60 years, Wilson Sonsini’ s services and legal disciplines have focused on serving the principal challenges faced by the management and boards of directors of business enterprises. The firm is nationally recognized as a leading provider to growing and established clients seeking legal counsel to complete sophisticated corporate and technology transactions; manage governance and enterprise-scale matters; assist with intellectual property development, protection, and IP-driven transactions; represent them in contested disputes; and/or advise them on antitrust or other regulatory matters.
Christopher Punongbayan, Executive Director
Mona Tawatao, Legal Director
Equal Justice Society
Jonathan Schwarzberg, Senior Media Relations Manager
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati