Document Fight Slows Inquiry of Affirmative Action at Harvard

DOJ investigating Harvard's admission policies: report

The U.S. Justice Department penned a letter Friday saying Harvard University has continued to stonewall a civil rights investigation into admissions policies stemming from a 2014 lawsuit alleging the Ivy League school has Asian-American restriction quotas.

The department wrote in a November 17 letter that the school was being probed under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 due to allegations that the school was using race as a deciding factor in its admissions decisions, according to the Journal. The measure prohibits institutions that receive federal funding from discriminating based on race, color or national origin.

Specifically, Justice wants all documents related to the university's admissions' policies to determine if the school's guilty of affirmative action overkill. The Justice Department claims that Harvard's privacy concerns are an "unacceptable" excuse for delaying the investigation.

"We sincerely hope that Harvard will quickly correct its non-compliance and return to its collaborative approach", the letter said, giving Harvard a new deadline of December 1.

The university said in a statement to The Journal that "the University will certainly comply with its obligations under Title VI".

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the admissions practices at Harvard and has threatened to sue the university to obtain documents, according to published reports.

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Justice Department opens Harvard admissions...

However, the issue of affirmative action on college campuses has been a longstanding debate in courts across the USA for decades.

The federal agency launched an investigation of Harvard's affirmative action practices some time ago, after an Asian-American complained in 2015 of discrimination. Brown-Nagin points out that the Trump administration's decision to target affirmative action policies comes as racial tensions are rising on many campuses. Another letter from the same division says that in the two months since the initial request for information, "Harvard has pursued a strategy of delay and has not yet produced even a single document".

"It's peculiar that you have a situation in which the Department of Education has dismissed a complaint and the Justice Department then decides to investigate under Title VI", Bhargava said. The school also said just over half of the freshmen admitted in 2017 were women, more than one-in-five were Asian and nearly 15 percent listed as African-American. Bhargava recently held fellowships at the Harvard Kennedy School, but she said she is not now affiliated with the school.

"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.

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