Justice Department threatens to sue Harvard over Asian-American admission records

Daily News Article - November 29, 2017


1. Why is the U.S. Department of Justice investigating Harvard University?

2. Why has the DOJ warned Harvard that the agency may sue the university?

3. What claim did Students for Fair Admissions make in the lawsuit they brought against Harvard in 2014? (Note: the suit is still pending.)

4. What allegation did the Asian American Coalition for Education make in a complaint filed with the Justice Department and the Education Department?

5. a) What is the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
b) What does Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibit?

6. Consider the following from the Nov. 21 news articles:

Wall Street Journal: “Asian-American groups have been raising concerns about the fairness of Ivy League admissions practices since at least 1989. Students for Fair Admissions, which advocates for the elimination of affirmative action in college admissions, includes Asian-Americans who were denied admission to Harvard.”

Boston Globe: “A 2009 study by a Princeton University sociologist showed that Asian-American students had to score 140 points higher than white students on their SATs, 270 higher than Hispanics, and 450 points higher than African-Americans to gain entrance into elite colleges. But the research did not consider other factors in admissions, such as extracurricular activities, recommendation letters or essays, and counselor letters.”

Also from WSJ: “According to experts in civil-rights law, there are many potential outcomes to the investigation. One possibility is that it could lead to litigation in court between the Justice Department and Harvard. In that case, if a federal judge finds Harvard has violated Title VI, the court has broad authority to issue a remedy, such as ordering the university to change its admissions policies, the experts say. Schools in violation of Title VI can also lose access to federal funds.”

In an August 8 opinion at The Washington Post, Edward Blum, president of Students for Fair Admissions wrote:

Since racial and ethnic preferences were introduced in the 1970s, they have been divisive. They stigmatize recipients, punish better-qualified individuals and pit Americans against one another. Most Americans understand this. A 2016 Gallup Poll shows that nearly 7 in 10 Americans (including 57 percent of African Americans) believe that a student’s race should not be a factor in college admissions.

Racial preferences need to end. For our most competitive colleges especially, there are better means to produce a diverse student body than race-based affirmative action.

In states that have banned using race by voter initiative or legislative statutes, many schools have responded by implementing a kind of “socio-economic affirmative action” to assist economically disadvantaged students regardless of race or ethnicity.

Do you agree or disagree with Mr. Blum’s assertions and suggestion for an alternative admissions policy? Explain your answer.