Harvard intentionally limits Asian student admissions, suit says—and Justice Dept. is investigating

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The Justice Department is investigating complaints surrounding a federal lawsuit alleging Harvard University intentionally discriminates against Asian-Americans by limiting how many Asian students are admitted, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing documents the paper has reviewed.

The DoJ also has accused Harvard of failing to cooperate with its own investigation into the same alleged admissions practices, the paper said.

Students for Fair Admissions filed the 2014 lawsuit in Boston. The suit asks a federal judge to prohibit Harvard from using race as a factor in future undergraduate admissions decisions, the Journal reported, adding that the suit is pending.

What else is the Justice Department doing?

  • The DoJ said in a Nov. 17 letter to Harvard’s lawyers that the college was being investigated under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin for organizations that receive federal funding, the paper reported.
  • The letter added that Harvard failed to comply with a Nov. 2 deadline to provide documents related to the university’s admissions policies and practices, the Journal said.
  • The DoJ told Harvard it “may file a lawsuit” to enforce compliance if Harvard doesn’t turn over documents by Dec. 1, the paper reported, citing a separate Nov. 17 letter from John M. Gore, acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division.

What is Harvard saying?

  • “As we have repeatedly made clear to the Department of Justice, the University will certainly comply with its obligations under Title VI,” the school said in a statement, the Journal reported.
  • Harvard also said it wants to protect applicant privacy, the paper said.
  • The school previously noted that it’s in compliance with longstanding Supreme Court precedents that let universities consider race in admissions processes, the Journal reported.

What could happen next?

  • If a federal judge finds Harvard violated Title VI, the court can order the school to change its admissions policies, civil rights law experts told the Journal.
  • Schools in violation of Title VI also can lose federal funds, the paper said.

You can read the entire Wall Street Journal article here.

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