The Department of Justice is taking a look at Harvard’s admissions process following accusations that the university limits the number of Asian students who are admitted.
According to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, any organization that receives federal funding is banned from discrimination based on race. Schools that violate Title VI risk losing access to federal funds.
“The Department of Justice takes seriously any potential violation of an individual’s civil and constitutional rights,” said DOJ spokesman Devin O’Malley.
The Justice Department says Harvard is not cooperating with the investigation and has threatened to “file a lawsuit” if the school does not provide certain documents by December 1st.
Harvard’s lawyers proposed a plan to give the feds limited access to some of the requested documents due to concerns about student privacy. The DOJ dismissed this proposal as “unacceptable.”
Harvard argues that its admissions practices are in accordance with Supreme Court rulings, which in the past have allowed universities to consider race a factor in admissions in order to diversify the study body. Just last year, the Supreme Court upheld the use of racial preferences in public university admissions.
Asian-American groups have been complaining about the fairness of Harvard and other Ivy League admissions policies for decades. In this case, the suit comes from members of “Students for Fair Admissions,” a nonprofit advocacy group that seeks to end affirmative actions in college admissions. Students for Fair Admissions is led by conservative lawyer Edward Blum, who in 2016 was involved in a challenge to affirmative action brought by a white applicant against the University of Texas.
Affirmative action policies were originally intended to help integrate minority students into American universities. Over time, these policies drove schools to prioritize ethnicity, athletic ability, and other factors over academic achievement. In many cases, this meant accepting students that were not ready or able to handle the academic rigors of the university. In other words, they were destined to fail.
“Affirmative action has also made admissions more competitive among higher-performing groups like Asian Americans, who face the most rigorous admissions hurdles of any ethnic group,” reports the Capital Research Center.
“A 2009 Princeton study revealed that Asian American applicants had to score 140 points higher on the SAT than white applicants, 270 points higher than Hispanic applicants, and 450 points higher than black applicants in order to have the same chance of admission at top universities.”
Author’s Note: Opinion polls show that nearly 70% of Americans believe that race should not be a factor in college admissions. If Harvard really wants to help solve social inequalities, it should give up on affirmative action and do what it does best: select and educate the next generation of leaders based on academic readiness.