Harvard accused of racial screening

China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-25 07:12

Probe launched into an alleged limit on Asian-American students

Harvard accused of racial screening

Harvard University t-shirts are displayed for sale in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. JESSICA RINALDI/REUTERS

BOSTON - The US Justice Department is investigating complaints that Harvard University intentionally limits the number of Asian-American students it admits, according to a report on Tuesday.

The department has also accused the university of failing to cooperate with the probe into the relevance of race in its admission practices, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing documents it reviewed.

A Nov 17 letter from the department gives Harvard until Dec 1 to turn over a variety of records that Justice officials requested in September, including applications for admission and evaluations of students.

The department said Harvard has pursued a "strategy of delay" and threatened to sue if it doesn't meet the department's deadline.

The inquiry is related to a federal lawsuit filed by a group of students in 2014 alleging Harvard limits the number of Asian-Americans it admits each year. A similar complaint was made to the Justice Department.

Diversity push

Harvard has previously said its admissions process is consistent with the legal precedents set over the past 40 years by the Supreme Court, which have allowed universities to consider race as a factor in admissions to obtain the benefits of a diverse student body.

A statement from Harvard on Tuesday said it will "certainly comply with its obligations" but also needs to protect confidential records related to students and applicants.

The university said it has been "seeking to engage the Department of Justice in the best means of doing so".

Many elite schools defend admissions approaches that consider race among other factors as a way to bring a more diverse mix of perspectives to campus. Harvard has previously said its practices are legally sound.

The Supreme Court last year upheld race-conscious admissions at the University of Texas but said the ruling didn't necessarily apply to all other schools.

Edward Blum, the legal strategist behind the 2014 lawsuit against Harvard, applauded the investigation into what he called "discriminatory admissions policies".

"Harvard's Asian quotas, and the overall racial balancing that follows, have been ignored by our federal agencies for too long," Blum said in a statement on Tuesday. "This investigation is a welcome development."

The school's early correspondence with Justice officials suggested that the department only wanted to weigh in on the lawsuit, but later letters revealed Harvard is the target of an inquiry.

A Nov 7 letter from a Harvard attorney said it was "highly unusual" for the department to open an investigation into a complaint more than two years after it was filed and while it's still being decided in court.

Xinhua - Ap

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