Centering Student Voices in the Movement for Equal Opportunity

Affirmative Action on the Chopping Block Listening Tour Series
Blog Post
June 8, 2023

“If Congress and the White House want to ensure students of color have equitable access to higher education, they must consider the voices of those most impacted by these issues – the students – as they are the experts in the support and resources they need for success.”

Those were the exact words uttered by Mayah Lubin, who is the Higher Education Equity Senior Coordinator at the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

In our first Listening Tour stop – where New America is conducting a series of interviews with affirmative action policy experts to learn more about their work and what the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision will mean for the future of higher education – we had the opportunity to chat and learn more about Mayah and her on-the-ground work to protect students' rights to equal opportunity.

Whether advocating for basic needs as the Black Student Union (BSU) President at Mississippi State University or creating initiatives to remove barriers to access and improve persistence rates for marginalized and underserved communities at top-tier public and private universities, Mayah is not new to the space of ensuring students of color have equal opportunity in achieving postsecondary success.

In this interview, Mayah expressed how these cases put equal opportunity under attack and how campus-based programming that embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion could be on the chopping block more now than ever, even with some states introducing and passing legislation to ban such programming as it already exists at some campuses.

Here are some additional highlights from our Listening Tour talk with Mayah:

  • “Affirmative action was never meant to be a silver bullet. It was never meant to solve every challenge regarding equity in higher education. But, if this tool [affirmative action] is stripped from us, we are setting ourselves up to fail many communities."

  • “At the Lawyers Committee, I lead the Reason Project, an initiative that brings students, alums, and community stakeholders from flagship universities to create sustainable policies to improve access and opportunity for underrepresented students of color. We are digging into the inner workings of these institutions by analyzing data, examining policy, and understanding the institution's history in the region. Student advocates are getting the opportunity to share their recommendations with their university administration and making demands.”

  • “Not long ago, I spent a weekend with student leaders organizing themselves around campus equity at UNC. These student leaders discussed the challenges and triumphs they've experienced related to their postsecondary education journey. But the most poignant need that students repeatedly pointed out to me is a thirst for simple safety - their physical, emotional, and intellectual safety is protected. That's why we have to be in conversation with students. They are the movement.“

To learn more, check out the entire conversation here.

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Related Topics
Affirmative Action College and Career Readiness Higher Education Access and Affordability