Opinion: Why Affirmative Action Is Still Needed in College Admissions

As an Asian-American, as a mother, and as a graduate of the University of Texas, I urge the Supreme Court to uphold the school's affirmative-action policy.

Last week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case about the use of race as a factor in undergraduate admissions at the University of Texas (Austin).

I'm proud that the University of Texas has taken a prominent role in the advancement of opportunity in college admissions.

In 1996, a judge struck down an earlier admission policy that made use of race, leading to a serious drop in minority enrollment at the university. This prompted the state to enact the "top 10 percent law," which required every Texas state university to automatically admit a student who finished in the top 10 percent of the class in a Texas high school. Still in effect today, the law accounts for the majority of student admissions each year and plays a significant role in supporting the school's diversity initiatives.

After the Supreme Court ruled in support of the use of race as one of the factors in helping to achieve racial diversity in the University of Michigan Grutter v Bollinger case in 2003, the University of Texas adopted the admissions plan now at issue. Under this plan, there was a renewed use of race as one of the factors in its admissions policy with the added goal of diversity within major academic fields. The plan vaulted the university into sixth place nationally in producing undergraduate degrees for students of color.

Asian-Americans, who are too often stereotyped as "model minorities," know that discrimination is still a problem in this country. That's why we continue to strongly support policies that expand opportunity in higher education.

Like other communities of color, the Asian-American community continues to face discrimination in many sectors, such as the workplace and in business. There still remains a need for a strong Asian-American presence in government offices, boards of directors, elected offices, and private businesses.

And the mother in me can't help but think about my children's experiences and what this case will mean to them.

Diversity in educational settings prepares students for living, working, and leading in the global community in which we all now live. Cross-cultural interactions better equip students to see issues from multiple perspectives, discuss controversial issues, and be more open to having their views challenged and often expanded.

Affirmative action has played a pivotal role in my life, and the lives of millions of other Americans. We are not yet in the post-racial society where it would no longer be needed.

I trust the Supreme Court will recognize this, and let the University of Texas pursue its goals of having a diverse and well-rounded student body open to all.

Mee Moua is the president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center, a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice.