Harvard Under Investigation For Discrimination Against Asian-Americans

Nicholas Chang 12/6/17


Harvard is now under investigation by the Justice Department for alleged discrimination against Asians in their recruitment process, declaring it to be “out of compliance” with federal laws.

         As a university, Harvard must comply with Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in order to keep its federal funding. This means that they cannot use federal funds for any activity or program that actively discriminates against someone on the basis of color or national origin, and the issue of so-called “affirmative action” has always been up for debate as a result.

         Many colleges make it easier for historically oppressed ethnic groups to get into college, but this comes at a cost of impacting other groups, resulting in more qualified students being denied entry. Far from a new issue, Harvard first became the center of debate when 64 Asian-American associations collectively filed a complaint against them for their recruiting processes.

         Since Asian-Americans consistently score higher on tests and achieve academically, this complaint accuses Harvard of making it harder for Asians to be accepted in the first place, thereby judging them not by academic ability, but by the color of their skin. The complaint was made in 2015, but nothing meaningful came from it under Obama Administration’s justice department.

         The Justice Department is currently attempting to determine if Harvard’s admissions practices and policies are discriminatory, but the university had challenged the authority of the Justice Department to do such a thing and had previously fought against releasing their admissions documents, claiming to be upholding the confidentiality of their applicants. It was only after the Justice Department threatened to sue the university did they release their information.

         By December 1st, the final day they were given before the DOJ threatened to sue, Harvard has given the Justice Department access to both applicant and student data. Though it does not include everything they asked for, it was an attempt to compromise. The DOJ claimed “We are pleased that Harvard today indicated it too takes this matter seriously and has presented a potential path forward,” but declined to elaborate any further on the matter.

         While private entities should have the right to set the rules on their own property, this case is entirely different due to the federal subsidies that universities receive. The potential impact on Harvard would be losing its’ federal subsidies (taxpayer's dime), not losing its own private property rights. This may even call into question the very idea of subsidizing universities in the first place, as it that has likely heavily contributed to their skyrocketing tuition rates. It is an economic tendency that when something is subsidized, the price generally increases and the quality generally decreases.

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