The Trump administration's Department of Justice is probing Harvard University's admissions process for allegedly discriminating against Asian applicants.
On Nov. 17, the DOJ's Civil Rights Division disclosed in a letter to Harvard's legal counsel that the university was being investigated for its affirmative action practices. The letter warned that the DOJ was not satisfied with Harvard's cooperation with the probe and that the university would face a lawsuit it did not turn over relevant documents by Dec. 1, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The letter indicated the DOJ was investigating whether Harvard was in compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which forbids institutions that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of race. The complaints against Harvard stemmed from a 2014 federal civil lawsuit filed by the Students for Fair Admissions, which alleged the university was deliberately limiting the number of Asian enrollees.
On Nov. 21, Harvard's Associate Dean of Communications Anna Cowenhoven asserted that the university was complying with the DOJ probe but also wanted to preserve the confidentiality of its admissions process.
"As we have repeatedly made clear to the Department of Justice, the university will certainly comply with its obligations under Title VI," Cowenhoven told CNN. "In the process, we have 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."
DOJ spokesperson Devin O'Malley issued a statement announcing the agency would not comment on the ongoing probe.
"The Department of Justice takes seriously any potential violation of an individual's civil and constitutional rights, but we will not comment at this time," O'Malley said.
Former Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Obama administration's Civil Rights Division blasted the DOJ probe of Harvard's applications process, asserting that the Trump administration was using the complaints about Asian admissions as a pretense to attack affirmative action.
"The Justice Department clearly appears to be on the hunt for a case to bring a significant challenge to affirmative action ... The Justice Department is going out of its way to scoop this case and get involved," Gupta said.
Students for Fair Admissions President Edward Blum, who spearheaded the original lawsuit against Harvard, has drawn controversy for his other complaints against affirmative action. Blum has filed more than 24 lawsuits against affirmative action policies and voting rights across the nation, asserting that race should not be considered in college admissions.
"Your race and your ethnicity should not be something used to help you or harm you in your life's endeavors," Blum told The New York Times.
While Asian-Americans account for 5.6 percent of the U.S. population, Harvard's Class of 2021 is 22 percent Asian and Asian-American, The Mercury News reports.
Sources: CNN, The Mercury News, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal via Fox News / Featured Image: zilinsky/Flickr / Embedded Images: Chensiyuan/Wikimedia Commons, Joseph Williams/Wikimedia Commons