Cooper joins brief backing UNC in SCOTUS race-based admissions case
By David Larson
This week, Gov. Roy Cooper and nine other Southern Democrat governors, present and past, signed onto a friend-of-the-court brief in support of UNC Chapel Hill and Harvard in a U.S. Supreme Court case regarding their “race-conscious admissions” policies. Four of the 10 signers were from N.C., and included former Govs. Mike Easley, Jim Hunt, and Bev Perdue.
The case, brought by Students for Fair Admissions in 2014, was decided in 2021 in favor of UNC and Harvard. But after an appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case in October. The case regards whether colleges can use applicants’ race as a factor in admissions.
In Cooper’s press release on the Southern governors’ brief, he said, “North Carolina’s reputation as ‘the education state’ requires nothing less than a system of public education—including higher education—that values, supports, and mirrors the great diversity of the State and provides equal opportunity to all to pursue their dreams.”
The statement goes on to say that “race-conscious admissions help create the next generation of diverse public servants and leaders in state and local governments. Race-conscious admissions are an important tool in making public universities more representative, which inspires confidence in public higher education and state government.”
But Leo Chan, founder and president of the N.C. Asian American Coalition, told Carolina Journal in an Aug. 4 interview that this focus on race is often to the detriment of Asians specifically.
“I think the bottom line is, we are for equality,” Chan said. “However, the admissions policy puts the Asian Americans at a disadvantage. We work hard, so we believe that everyone should have equal opportunity to have access to college based on merit.”
Chan said he understands that a lot of people want to focus on equity and righting past wrongs, but he said Asians have not always had it easy in the United States either. Chan cited the treatment of Chinese railroad workers, the Japanese who were put in internment camps, and other examples over the years.
“Everyone has a history of being oppressed or suppressed,” Chan said. “I can tell you, when I first came, I got discriminated [against]. But the point is, instead of focusing on a victim mentality, we all should strive for our very best and achieve the American Dream. And that’s why we want to advocate that, it doesn’t matter what your race is, you should have equal opportunity.”
Chan and the N.C. Asian American Coalition joined N.C. Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson and Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears at the lieutenant governor’s office in May as the two announced their own brief in support of Asian-American students who had applied to UNC and Harvard.
Kenny Xu, the author of “Invconvenient Minority” and a journalist closely monitoring the case, responded to Cooper’s support for UNC and Harvard in an Aug. 4 interview with Carolina Journal.
“Do they care about merit?” He asked. “Is it race-conscious admissions at the expense of the most-qualified candidate? The average Asian-American admittee to Harvard has over 120 points higher on the SAT than the average black admittee to Harvard. Does that not matter?”
Xu said his book breaks down all the pertinent facts showing why he says Harvard’s argument is wrong, and also UNC’s. But he said the book also talks about the larger issue of Asians’ place in society as an “inconvenient minority,” still facing discrimination.
“That would not make sense 40 or 50 years ago but now is the case because Asian Americans have become so successful,” he said.
Xu said it is obvious that Asians are specifically being disadvantaged by the race-conscious admissions policies, because they have the highest test scores among all applicants, are rated first among all races in terms of teacher recommendations, second in counselor recommendations, first among alumni recommendations.
“And yet Harvard gives them the lowest ‘personality score’ among all races,” he said “That doesn’t make sense unless Harvard is directly practicing either discrimination, or the kind of bias that leads to discrimination. Both of which are wrong.”
Xu believes this subjective “personality score” is just a cover to lower the overall strength of Asian applications so they can sneak in racial discrimination against high-performing Asian students, even if the Asian students are from impoverished, war-torn, or refugee backgrounds.
“They excessively value the African-American story of disadvantage over the immigrant story of disadvantage,” he said.
Xu graduated from North Carolina’s Davidson College magna cum laude with a degree in mathematics. But he had applied, and was rejected from, Princeton University despite a “near-perfect” SAT score and a 4.4 GPA.
In an Aug. 3 press release, liberal non-profit the N.C. Justice Center announced that they had also filed a brief in the case. Like Cooper and the Democrat governors, the NCJC are in support of the original decision in the case that supported Harvard and UNC’s use of race in admissions.
“The outpouring of support from organizations and individuals from North Carolina and across the United States demonstrates the importance of holistic, race-conscious admissions programs in promoting diversity across many different sectors of our society,” Sarah Laws, a fellow at the North Carolina Justice Center, said. “In our increasingly interconnected world, diversity continues to benefit all of us.”