Following an investigation into the university’s use of Affirmative Action, the United States Justice Department has concluded that Harvard University is “out of compliance” with federal law.
According to CNN, two letters from the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division indicate that Harvard has” challenged the department’s authority to investigate”. A potential suit between the Department of Justice and Harvard University would be the first major legal test of affirmative action policies under the Trump administration.
Harvard’s attorney, Seth Waxman, did not immediately return their request for comment.
The Justice Department’s interest in Harvard’s policies stems from a 2015 federal complaint that accuses the school of discriminating against Asian-Americans in admissions. When The New York Times reported in August that the Justice Department was looking for lawyers to work on “possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions,” the department said that the posting was related to an ongoing case rolled over from the Obama administration.
“The posting sought volunteers to investigate one administrative complaint filed by a coalition of 64 Asian-American associations in May 2015 that the prior administration left unresolved,” Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement at the time.
“The complaint alleges racial discrimination against Asian-Americans in a university’s admissions policy and practices. This Department of Justice has not received or issued any directive, memorandum, initiative, or policy related to university admissions in general. The Department of Justice is committed to protecting all Americans from all forms of illegal race-based discrimination,” she had said.
Affirmative action is the widely known policy of favoring members of a disadvantaged group of people who have suffered from past or current discrimination. Affirmative action is meant to bridge inequalities in employment and pay, increase access to education, promote diversity, and redress apparent past wrongs, harms, or hindrances.
Devin O’Malley, a spokesman for the DOJ, said that “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.”
Harvard University has yet to comment on the investigation.