James Chen | James Chen – Students for Fair Admissions

James Chen

James Chen- Alameda, California

Anyone can accept the status quo, but rebelling against the system is the hardest thing to do.
When I first heard about Students For Fair Admissions (SFFA), I found myself agreeing with
everything that SFFA and founder Edward Blum had to say about the current admissions
process at elite-level colleges such as Harvard and the University of Michigan. I, too, envisioned
a world where high school students applying to college would be judged by their character,
abilities, and achievements. And thanks to SFFA, that goal appears to be within reach.

As a private college admissions counselor, I set off with high hopes over twenty years ago when
I began working with students, primarily Asian-Americans, who were aiming at America’s top
college and universities. I heard from parents and students alike who wondered why it was so
difficult for Asian-Americans in particular to gain admission to schools such as Princeton,
Stanford, and MIT. I also had questions, but mostly on how the system could’ve gone so wrong
with its blatant quotas and illegal discrimination against certain racial groups. Unfortunately,
my campaigning against Affirmative Action and race-based quotas seemed to engender more
eye-rolls than the support I’d been hoping for among many Asian-Americans.

Despite my best efforts, I found little support for a grass roots effort among Asian-Americans to
fight racial discrimination by America’s elite colleges and universities. And to my great
disappointment, apathy and a lack of concern seemed to have taken hold among the
young—the very victims of Affirmative Action. What many Asian-Americans seem to lack—both
young and old alike—is the sense of empowerment that many other groups have already
achieved in today’s society.

Nearly ten years ago, I ended my association with Corporate America and began working full-
time with students as a college admissions counselor. Having attended Columbia, Cornell, and
the University of California (Berkeley), I am fully aware of the difficult path that students face
when applying to elite-level institutions. In the future, I want to fight even harder for the issues

I care about, but I am especially determined to use my powers of persuasion to convince Asian-
Americans to take drastic action against racial discrimination in college admissions. It is with
this goal in mind that I’ve decided to seek a place on the Board of Directors for SFFA.

As a rebel with a cause, I want to force the system to obey laws against discrimination. Now, I
believe that the key to overturning court decisions such as Grutter v. Bollinger and Fisher v.
University of Texas has less to do with letting others fight for you and more with actively
speaking out on one’s own behalf in both the courts of justice and public opinion. The voice of
Asian-Americans needs to heard, and I aspire to be that voice through Students For Fair

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