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Trump Administration Just Threatened To Sue Harvard University Over Affirmative Action

Trump Administration Just Threatened To Sue Harvard University Over Affirmative Action
Updated 6 months ago

The Trump Department of Justice has been very clear on its stance regarding affirmative action: they don't like it. In early October, the DOJ announced it would be investigating Harvard University over its admissions practices, reportedly responding to allegations of discrimination against Asian-American students. As part of the investigation, the DOJ requested a large number of student records.

It appears Harvard official have been hesitant to comply with that request:

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 stipulates that schools that receive federal funding, including private schools which receive federal grants, cannot discriminate against applicants based on race. The university has until December 1 to comply with the DOJ's request for records, or the department claims they may sue, citing this law. 

Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore wrote in a letter obtained by Buzzfeed News:

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 obligation.

Harvard released a statement, saying:

As we have repeatedly made clear to the Department of Justice, the University will certainly comply with its obligations under Title VI.

The university's spokesperson also said the school had 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.”

Harvard has turned over the records before during a lawsuit involving the anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions, who believe the school's attempts to draw in black and Latino students sets unspoken quotas for Asian students, and raises the standards they must meet to be admitted. 

A letter from the DOJ claims that Harvard “has not yet produced a single document.”

The school claims it's "extremely unusual" for the Department of Justice to revisit such an old investigation. Since the files include "deeply private information from high school students," Harvard lawyers would like to know how the DOJ would "safeguard the confidentiality of the extremely sensitive information that it has sought."

Trump's DOJ struck back against Harvard's concerns, saying Title VI "does not allow entities under investigation to dictate what information qualifies as relevant to the investigation,” and that, given the circumstances, "the Department is left with no choice but to conclude that Harvard is out of compliance with its Title VI obligations."

Edward Blum, who has spearheaded several prominent anti-affirmative action cases, including the Students for Fair Admissions case, thinks this is a step in the right direction:

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