‘College admissions probe relates to bias against Asian Americans’

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The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) said on Wednesday that a project probing alleged racial bias in the US college admissions process is aimed at investigating a specific case involving Asian American students that was filed in May 2015.

A department spokeswoman described an August 2 front-page article in the New York Times, headlined “US Rights Unit to Study Antiwhite Bias,” as “inaccurate.” The story, which was picked up by the US media, said the agency’s civil rights division was preparing to probe and sue American universities over affirmative action admissions policies “deemed to discriminate against white applicants.”

The report was based on an internal DOJ document obtained by the newspaper seeking staff attorneys for a new project concerning “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and universities.”

The DOJ spokeswoman said the investigation alluded to in the New York Times story concerned a complaint filed by 64 Asian American groups that “alleges racial discrimination against Asian Americans in a university’s admission policy and practices.” The university wasn’t named.

The DOJ appears to be referring to a suit filed by the Asian American Coalition for Education (AACE) in May 2015 against Harvard University that alleges the Ivy League school discriminates against Asian American applicants through the use of racial quotas that disregard their academic, test score and other qualifications. The filing was supported by more than 60 Asian American organizations nationwide.

Asian American groups backing the admissions suit against Harvard welcomed the DOJ’s probe.

“This is a direct and very positive response to the complaint AACE filed in 2015”

“The Asian American Coalition for Education (AACE) is very pleased to learn that the US Department of Justice is considering a civil-rights-violation investigation into the admissions processes of Harvard and other Ivy League colleges for their alleged discrimination against Asian American students,” the group said in a statement. “This is a direct and very positive response to the complaint AACE filed in 2015.”

“The DOJ initiative is very helpful,” said S.B. Woo, president of the 80-20 National Asian American PAC, a political action committee that is among the groups supporting the complaint against Harvard.

Asian American backers of affirmative action are opposed to the DOJ’s move, however. “It’s absolutely ridiculous that the Trump administration is directing tax payer dollars to target a program that only begins to level the playing field for communities of color seeking access to higher education,” Ivy Yan, a graduate of the Harvard College Class of 2015, told Asia Times. “Affirmative action policies benefit all students, including Asian Americans, which is why it has been upheld in the courts time and again.” Yan will be returning as a law student to Harvard this fall.

Doug Tsuruoka is Editor-at-Large of Asia Times

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