The Justice Department Is Investigating Harvard University's Affirmative Action Policies

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The Justice Department is actively investigating Harvard University's use of race in its admissions policies and has concluded the school is "out of compliance" with federal law, according to documents obtained by CNN.

Harvard is challenging the department's authority to investigate, according to CNN. The DOJ said a posting looking for lawyers to work on "possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions", was related to a civil complaint against Harvard from during the Obama administration.

Harvard has said in the past that its admissions policies on race have lined up with legal precedent set over the past 40 years by the Supreme Court, which has allowed for race to be a factor in the admissions process.

The Justice Department cited a 2015 lawsuit that charges Harvard's affirmative action policies discriminate against Asian-American applicants, in a letter setting a December 1 deadline for Harvard to hand over documents on its admission policies.

Seth Waxman, the attorney representing Harvard, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday morning. The investigation stems from a 2015 complaint from Asian-American activist groups which claimed that Harvard discriminates against Asian-American applicants.

Media captionIn the wake of a US Supreme Court decision over Michigan's affirmative action policies, the BBC takes a look at American public opinion on the issue.

"The Justice Department clearly appears to be on the hunt for a case to bring a significant challenge to affirmative action", said Vanita Gupta, former head of the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Barack Obama who now leads the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

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

If found in violation of the Civil Rights Act, Harvard could lose federal funding.

"It's peculiar that you have a situation in which the Department of Education has dismissed a complaint and the Justice Department then decides to investigate under Title VI", Bhargava said. Bhargava recently held fellowships at the Harvard Kennedy School, but she said she is not now affiliated with the school.

"Many Asian-American students who have nearly flawless 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 read.

"The university will certainly comply with its obligations under Title VI", Harvard spokeswoman Anna Cowenhoven said in a statement on Tuesday.



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