Justice Department may sue Harvard for affirmative-action documents

Pauline Gross
November 22, 2017

The Supreme Court has ruled universities may use affirmative action with the aim of helping minority applicants get into college.

The investigation reportedly stems from a 2015 federal complaint accusing the school of discrimination in admissions against Asian-Americans which The New York Times reported in August. The measure prohibits institutions that receive federal funding from discriminating based on race, color or national origin.

Earlier this year, Harvard admissions reported that a majority of students accepted into the incoming Fall 2017 freshman class were not white, for the second year in a row.

The Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division sent a letter to Harvard dated November 17 notifying the school it is being investigated under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Attorneys for Harvard in an October 6 letter to the Justice Department seen by Reuters questioned the timing of the probe.

The department said the school had failed to meet a November 3 deadline to show documents related to the university's admission procedures and policies.

Seth Waxman, a lawyer representing Harvard, had no comment on the matter, the Journal said.

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He states that the complaint at the core of this investigation is two and a half years old, and is "even more unusual because, as you know, identical issues are being litigated in federal court". "'On the other hand, you have conservatives who feel like their voices are being shut down in debates over things like affirmative action and immigration and sexual assault'".

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating Harvard University over claims that it intentionally limits the number of Asian-American students it accepts. It stressed that it is not subject to redaction requirements and would not allow "entities under investigation to dictate what information qualifies as relevant to the investigation". "We have an obligation to protect the confidentiality of student and applicant files and other highly sensitive records, and we have been seeking to engage the Department of Justice in the best means of doing so".

"The Department of Justice takes seriously any potential violation of an individual's civil and constitutional rights", Justice Department spokesman Devin O'Malley said in an e-mail.

"Please be advised that if Harvard does not comply with the document request in full by that deadline, we may file a lawsuit to enforce Harvard's Title VI access obligations".

Yet former Justice Department officials told CNN the Harvard case marks a sign of what's to come.

Harvard has long maintained that its admissions policies are fully compliant with USA laws and has worked to increase the amount of financial aid it offers to ensure economic, as well as racial, diversity in its classes.

Other reports by GizPress

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