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.
A November 17 letter from the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division says that the US has determined that Harvard is "not complying with its Title VI access requirements". The measure prohibits institutions that receive federal funding from discriminating based on race, color or national origin.
In two letters sent Friday, Justice Department officials said Harvard had not produced "a single document" that had been requested, despite a November 2 deadline, and that the university's attorney had tried to "side-step Harvard's Title VI obligations".
Harvard has reportedly provided the documents being sought by the Justice Department to the plaintiffs in the suit.
"We sincerely hope that Harvard will quickly correct its non-compliance and return to its collaborative approach", the letter said, giving Harvard a new deadline of December 1.
The letters said Harvard lawyer Seth Waxman, a WilmerHale partner, had challenged DOJ's authority to investigate the school under Title VI.
The Journal reported that the DOJ is investigating similar allegations to a 2014 civil lawsuit filed by Students for Fair Admissions, which said the university admissions practices were in violation of USA civil rights law and discriminated against Asian Americans.
According to the Wall Street Journal report, a successful investigation could result in Harvard being forced to change their admissions policies. Brown-Nagin points out that the Trump administration's decision to target affirmative action policies comes as racial tensions are rising on many campuses.
"Many Asian-American students who have nearly ideal 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. Another letter from the same division says that in the two months since the initial request for information, "Harvard has pursued a strategy of delay and has not yet produced even a single document". "Title VI does not allow entities under investigation to dictate what information qualifies as relevant".
The school said earlier this year that just over half of the freshmen admitted in 2017 were women, more than one in five was Asian and nearly 15 percent African-American.
The DoJ said it "may file a lawsuit" if Harvard does not comply. "We have an obligation to protect the confidentiality of student and applicant files and other highly sensitive records".
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