Asian parents file federal lawsuit against NY state-funded STEM program over racial bias in admissions

'New York shouldn’t determine who gets the opportunity to attend educational programs based on race,' said Erin Wilcox, an attorney. 'Such race-based decision-making violates the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee and has been shot down at the U.S. Supreme Court numerous times.'

Asian parents file federal lawsuit against NY state-funded STEM program over racial bias in admissions
Ian Miles Cheong/MidJourney
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A group of Asian parents has initiated a federal lawsuit against New York’s Department of Education, alleging racial bias in the admissions process of the state-funded Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP).

The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, contends that the program disproportionately favors Black and Hispanic students, including those from affluent backgrounds, while imposing income restrictions on Asian and white students, the New York Post reported.

The STEP program, which offers free educational opportunities in STEM fields to about 11,000 students annually across 56 colleges and medical schools in New York, is accused of accepting students based on race or ethnicity.

According to the program’s website, it targets “economically disadvantaged, or African American, Hispanic/Latino, Alaskan Native or American Indian” students. The plaintiffs argue this policy unfairly excludes Asian American students who slightly exceed the low-income threshold, solely based on their race.

Yiatin Chu of the Asian Wave Alliance, a notable plaintiff in the case, has previously engaged in efforts against perceived anti-Asian bias in New York City schools. 

“This is outright discrimination against Asian-American students pursuing the STEM field,” Chu said in a statement to the Post. “The program should be for all students or for low income students. The state is choosing which race is eligible.”

The lawsuit is supported by the Pacific Legal Foundation and the Equal Protection Project. Erin Wilcox, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation.

“New York shouldn’t determine who gets the opportunity to attend educational programs based on race,” Wilcox said. “Such race-based decision-making violates the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee and has been shot down at the U.S. Supreme Court numerous times.”

This legal challenge comes in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling against affirmative action policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. The ruling has had significant implications for admissions processes at universities nationwide.

William Jacobson, founder of the Equal Protection Project and a Cornell University law professor, stressed the importance of ending state-sponsored discrimination. He argued that any form of racism is unacceptable, urging New York to cease its current practices.

Recently, Elon Musk noted on X that "Discrimination on the basis of anything other than merit is wrong."

"DEI must DIE. The point was to end discrimination, not replace it with different discrimination," said Musk in December. 

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