Brac­ing for Jus­tice Dept.’s scru­tiny of race in ad­mis­sions

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Collin Bink­ley

A Jus­tice De­part­ment in­quiry into how race in­flu­ences ad­mis­sions at Har­vard Univer­sity has left se­lec­tive col­leges brac­ing for new scru­tiny of prac­tices that have helped boost diversity lev­els to new highs across the Ivy League.

Har­vard and other top­tier col­leges closely guard the in­ner work­ings of their ad­mis­sions of­fices, but they de­fend ap­proaches that con­sider an ap­pli­cant’s race among other fac­tors as a way to bring a di­verse mix of per­spec­tives to cam­pus. While the schools be­lieve they are on firm le­gal ground, ex­perts say the in­ves­ti­ga­tion could in­spire new chal­lenges.

“They’re pulling the scab off a wound that was heal­ing,” said An­thony Carnevale, who has stud­ied af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion pro­grams and leads Ge­orge­town Univer­sity’s Cen­ter for Ed­u­ca­tion and the Work­force. “This could erupt in a bunch more cases.”

At the eight Ivy League col­leges in­clud­ing Har­vard, Yale and Prince­ton, the num­ber of U.S. mi­nor­ity stu­dents in all in­com­ing classes grew by 17 per­cent be­tween 2010 and 2015, while over­all en­roll­ment in those classes grew by less than 2 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est fed­eral data. By 2015, mi­nori­ties ac­counted for more than 43 per­cent of all in­com­ing stu­dents in the Ivy League, up from 37 per­cent in 2010.

The trend partly re­flects the de­mo­graph­ics of an in­creas­ingly di­verse na­tion, but the schools also con­sider race for rea­sons in­clud­ing a de­sire to re­verse his­tor­i­cally low num­bers of mi­nori­ties at elite uni­ver­si­ties that in some cases be­gan ad­mit­ting non­white stu­dents only in the past 75 years.

“We’re aim­ing for diversity on our cam­pus, and we’re achiev­ing it,” said Christo­pher Eis­gru­ber, pres­i­dent of Prince­ton Univer­sity. “Uni­ver­si­ties have a com­pelling in­ter­est in pur­su­ing diversity in their stu­dent bod­ies through a holis­tic assess­ment of fac­tors.”

At Brown Univer­sity, the in­quiry was a topic of dis­cus­sion last week, school spokesman Brian Clark said.

Word of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion star­tled some who thought the af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion de­bate was set­tled af­ter the U.S. Supreme Court last year up­held race-con­scious ad­mis­sions at the Univer­sity of Texas.

In a Har­vard case, in­ves­ti­ga­tors are look­ing into a 2015 com­plaint brought by a coali­tion of 64 Asian-Amer­i­can groups that al­lege the school uses racial quo­tas to ad­mit stu­dents and dis­crim­i­nates against AsianAmer­i­cans by hold­ing them to a higher stan­dard.

The Jus­tice De­part­ment said it’s re­vis­it­ing the case be­cause it was left un­re­solved by the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Har­vard said its prac­tices are legally sound.

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