Jus­tice: Re­ports on af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion probe ‘in­ac­cu­rate.’

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY ANDREA NOBLE

The Jus­tice De­part­ment shot down al­le­ga­tions Wed­nes­day that it was pre­par­ing to in­ves­ti­gate and pos­si­bly sue col­leges to stop race-based af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion ad­mis­sions poli­cies, say­ing the re­ports were “in­ac­cu­rate.”

The DOJ’s Civil Rights Di­vi­sion did ad­ver­tise for in­ves­ti­ga­tors to look into a 2015 com­plaint filed by Asian Amer­i­can ap­pli­cants against Har­vard Univer­sity, but an of­fi­cial said a New York Times re­port sug­gest­ing a broader ef­fort was wrong.

“This De­part­ment of Jus­tice has not re­ceived or is­sued any di­rec­tive, mem­o­ran­dum, ini­tia­tive, or pol­icy re­lated to univer­sity ad­mis­sions in gen­eral,” said Jus­tice De­part­ment spokes­woman Sarah Is­gur Flores.

The orig­i­nal New York Times re­port spurred a firestorm of crit­i­cism aimed at the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“The idea that the Jus­tice De­part­ment

“This De­part­ment of Jus­tice has not re­ceived or is­sued any di­rec­tive, mem­o­ran­dum, ini­tia­tive, or pol­icy re­lated to univer­sity ad­mis­sions in gen­eral.” — Sarah Is­gur Flores, Jus­tice De­part­ment spokes­woman

would sue col­leges over their in­clu­sive poli­cies is an af­front to fair­ness and sends a dan­ger­ous sig­nal that it will no longer work to pro­tect the most vul­ner­a­ble,” said Den­nis Parker, di­rec­tor of the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union’s Racial Jus­tice Pro­gram. “It would mark an alarm­ing shift in di­rec­tion that threat­ens the hard-fought progress made by civil rights ad­vo­cates and the de­part­ment it­self over the past decades.”

Democrats on Capi­tol Hill also weighed in, ac­cus­ing the Jus­tice De­part­ment of try­ing to roll back racial progress.

In the out­stand­ing Har­vard com­plaint, a coali­tion of 64 Asian-Amer­i­can ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tions al­leged that the Ivy League school “sys­tem­at­i­cally dis­crim­i­nates” against Asian-Amer­i­cans and holds them to a higher stan­dard dur­ing the ad­mis­sions process.

“Many Asian-Amer­i­can stu­dents who have al­most per­fect SAT scores, top 1 per­cent GPAs, plus sig­nif­i­cant awards or lead­er­ship po­si­tions in var­i­ous ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties have been re­jected by Har­vard Univer­sity and other Ivy League col­leges while sim­i­larly sit­u­ated ap­pli­cants of other races have been ad­mit­ted,” the com­plaint reads.

For decades, race-based af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion pro­grams have been used to di­ver­sify cam­puses and of­fer stu­dents from dis­ad­van­taged mi­nor­ity groups, par­tic­u­larly black and Latino stu­dents, ad­mis­sion pref­er­ence over oth­ers with higher test scores.

But some white and Asian stu­dents have lodged com­plaints over such pro­grams, say­ing they’ve been put at a dis­ad­van­tage in the ad­mis­sions process.

The Supreme Court ruled last year that it is law­ful to use race as one fac­tor in col­lege ad­mis­sions to en­sure a di­verse stu­dent body, but warned that not all af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion pro­grams would pass con­sti­tu­tional scru­tiny. The chal­lenge was brought by a white woman who said she was not ac­cepted to the Univer­sity of Texas be­cause of her race.

“Un­for­tu­nately a lot of schools have not fol­lowed the con­straints the Supreme Court set forth,” said Roger Clegg, pres­i­dent of the Cen­ter for Equal Op­por­tu­nity, which op­poses af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion.

But civil rights groups said af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion pro­grams that aid mi­nor­ity stu­dents are law­ful and should be pro­tected.

“Long­stand­ing Supreme Court prece­dent has up­held the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity and com­pelling state in­ter­est of these poli­cies, and gen­er­a­tions of Amer­i­cans have ben­e­fited from richer, more in­clu­sive in­sti­tu­tions of higher ed­u­ca­tion,” said Vanita Gupta, a for­mer head of the Civil Rights Di­vi­sion and the cur­rent pres­i­dent and CEO of the Lead­er­ship Con­fer­ence on Civil and Hu­man Rights.

Con­ser­va­tive groups that op­pose af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion poli­cies had ear­lier in the day ap­plauded the news, though some ad­mit­ted that with lit­tle known about the project it ap­peared to be a sig­nif­i­cant and dif­fi­cult un­der­tak­ing.

Con­duct­ing a wide­spread in­ves­ti­ga­tion to root out in­ten­tional dis­crim­i­na­tion in the ad­mis­sions process would be dif­fi­cult, said Ward Con­nerly, the pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Civil Rights In­sti­tute, and a long­time op­po­nent of af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion pro­grams.

“That is go­ing to be hard to prove if not im­pos­si­ble to prove,” he said. “[Univer­si­ties] are go­ing to ar­gue that it was not their in­ten­tion to dis­crim­i­nate and their in­ten­tion was to treat ev­ery­body equally.”

But, he said, “The jour­ney of 1,000 miles has to start some­place.”

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