The Pacific Legal Foundation and Legal Insurrection Foundation filed a Federal lawsuit against New York State on behalf of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance Greater New York (CACAGNY) and 3 other plaintiffs on January 17, 2024.
The lawsuit challenges the New York Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP) Act for racial discrimination against Asians.
The New York Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP) Act is a New York state law that awards grants to colleges and universities to fund STEM programs for middle and high school students. There is a similar C-STEP to fund STEM programs for college students which is also part of this lawsuit.
The eligibility requirements for STEP include that students must be (1) Black, Hispanic, American Indian, or Alaskan native, or (2) of other races, in which case they are required to qualify as low-income. That means Asian students must be low-income in order to apply, but Black, Hispanic, American Indian, or Alaskan native have no income restrictions.
Universities all over the state operate STEP programs for middle and high school students. New York City alone offers 25 STEP universities (full list here), including elite universities like Columbia, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and New York University. Another 14 STEP programs operate upstate, including one at Cornell.
STEP provides wonderful opportunities for middle and high school kids interested in STEM, including academic enrichment in STEM, academic counseling, and the opportunity to gain valuable contacts. Asian students, however, face an additional income hurdle in order to be eligible for STEP, just because of their race.
Opposing discrimination against Chinese Americans in education is a core party of CACAGNY's mission. The organization has previously filed a Discovery Expansion lawsuit against New York City, as well as numerous amicus briefs in SFFA v Harvard and Coalition for TJ v Fairfax County School Board.
"Racial discrimination is not just illegal, it is sordid and immoral. When our kids are divided, rewarded or punished by race, rather than judged for their own individual merit, they suffer, all people suffer. The NYS STEP program should be open to students by their academic merit, and should not discriminate by race," said Wai Wah Chin, Charter President of CACAGNY.
"We thank Pacific Legal Foundation and Legal Insurrection Foundation for representing CACAGNY pro-bono. We believe this is an open-and-shut case of anti-Asian racial discrimination, and we will prevail," said CACAGNY's statement on the lawsuit.