DOJ: Affirmative action challenge focused on Asians, not whites

Shannon Spada
Koch Intern

  • The U.S. Department of Justice has confirmed that it plans to investigate potential discrimination in affirmative action policies, but says it is doing so on behalf of Asian students, not whites.
  • The New York Times had originally reported that the investigation will look into “policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants,” but the DOJ claims it was actually prompted by a complaint filed by Asian-Americans.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice has confirmed that it plans to investigate potential discrimination in affirmative action policies, but says it is doing so on behalf of Asian students, not whites.

    The New York Times reported Tuesday that it had obtained a document revealing an internal announcement that the Department’s civil rights division is seeking lawyers to work on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.”

    The Times interpreted the document to be alluding to “policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants,” but the Justice Department quickly responded with a statement flatly denouncing the “inaccurate” claim.

    According to the statement, the internal announcement was actually related to a complaint filed on behalf of Asian-American applicants, who claim they have been subjected to racial discrimination by the affirmative action admissions policies at an unnamed university.

    [RELATED: Texas A&M shows that affirmative action isn’t necessary]

    Former civil rights division employees interviewed by the Times expressed skepticism that the department would go to such lengths over a single complaint, noting that the original document mentioned multiple “investigations.”

    Kristen Clarke, president of the liberal advocacy group Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, called the announcement “deeply disturbing” in an interview for the initial story, saying that looking for flaws in affirmative action policies is antithetical to the civil rights division’s “longstanding priorities” of dealing with “the unique problem of discrimination faced by our nation’s most oppressed minority groups.”

    The Times notes that while the Justice Department’s statement does not specify which university is targeted in the complaint that prompted its investigation, the details it has provided are consistent with a complaint filed against Harvard University by 64 Asian-American coalitions in 2015.

    [RELATED: Harvard med students demand diversity, but no more Asians please]

    As Campus Reform has previously reported, however, a public poll conducted by Gallup last year found that a majority of black respondents, and nearly half of Hispanics, opposed a Supreme Court decision upholding affirmative action at the University of Texas.

    Indeed, a slim majority of black respondents even opined that merit, not race, should be the sole factor determining admission to a college or university.

    [RELATED: Poll: Even minorities oppose affirmative action]

    Moreover, universities like Texas A&M have demonstrated that affirmative action is not the only way to promote diversity on campus, or even necessarily the best way.

    Since eschewing affirmative action when the option became available to Texas universities in 2003, A&M has more than doubled the share of black and Latino students—from 10.8 percent in 2003 to 23.1 percent in 2015—by focusing its efforts on low-income scholarships and minority recruitment programs.

    UT, which enthusiastically embraced the affirmative action approach, saw a smaller impact over the same period, increasing its share of black and Hispanic students from 16.1 percent to 24.9 percent.

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    Shannon Spada

    Shannon Spada

    Koch Intern
    Shannon is a Koch Intern for Campus Reform. She attended Hofstra University and graduated in May 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.
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