Chicago professor among pro-affirmative action demonstrators at Supreme Court

DePaul, Loyola, University of Chicago take public stances on Harvard and UNC cases, urging justices to uphold affirmative action.

Monday, October 31, 2022
Chicago professor among pro-affirmative action demonstrators at SCOTUS
DePaul, Loyola and the University of Chicago took public stances on Harvard and UNC cases, urging Supreme Court justices to uphold affirmative action.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicagoan OiYan Poon and her daughter spent Monday morning demonstrating on the steps of the Supreme Court.

Poon co-authored an amicus brief in support of affirmative action with over 1,200 researchers and professors who are experts on Asian Americans and college access.

"It was really important for me to be here because I've been working on research on race and college access for 10, 15 years," said Poon, who is currently a visiting professor of education at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Oral arguments began Monday morning on cases involving the admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina.

Students for Fair Admissions sued the schools in 2014, alleging discrimination against Asian American applicants.

The group is led by longtime conservative activist Edward Blum.

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He previously enlisted white students to challenge the race-based admissions policy at the University of Texas and lost.

"Mr. Blum decided a long time ago that having white applicants challenge the systems is a less sympathetic victim than say an Asian American applicant," said Alvin Tillery, who is the head of the Center for the Study of Diversity & Democracy at Northwestern University.

In the 1960s many colleges and universities began taking into account the racial background of applicants in order to diversify their campuses.

Northwestern Political Science and Sociology Professor Anthony S. Chen is co-authoring a book on affirmative action.

"The thing that really stands out to you is when you look at the development of affirmative action and college admissions over time is just how limited a role that race plays today compared to the role that it has used to play. And that's because the court has said that it must play a limited role," he said.

Based on its current makeup, many legal experts believe the high court will end affirmative action in college admissions, which could also impact workplace diversity efforts.

"If the court goes so far as to endorse a completely color-blind approach to law, it's hard to overstate how dramatic of an effect that might have on policies of many kinds throughout the country," said Carolyn Shapiro, who is the co-director of Chicago-Kent's Institute on the Supreme Court of the United States.

DePaul and Loyola universities as well as the University of Chicago have taken public stances on the Harvard and UNC cases, urging the justices to uphold affirmative action.

Poon is worried, but hopeful.

"It feels like game seven in a very long battle. And I hope that we prevail and that a diverse democracy wins," she said.