The Justice Department is denying a New York Times article that claims officials are preparing to go after colleges’ affirmative action policies. The story ignited a firestorm after it was published, with civil rights groups and Obama-era education officials quickly condemning the DOJ for what they perceived as an “assault on affirmative action.”
Wednesday, DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores issued a statement calling the press reports “inaccurate.”
“This Department of Justice has not received or issued any directive, memorandum, initiative, or policy related to university admissions in general,” she said. “The Department of Justice is committed to protecting all Americans from all forms of illegal race-based discriminations.”
Flores said the department was actually looking for lawyers to investigate a 2015 complaint filed with the Department of Education over Harvard University’s race-based quota system. The complaint alleges the Ivy-League school requires Asian students to have SAT scores 140 points higher than White students, 270 points higher than Hispanics and 450 points higher than Black students.
On Tuesday the New York Times reported the DOJ was looking for lawyers to investigate and possibly litigate problems related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.
Even though they don’t come out and say it, it’s pretty clear they are talking about affirmative action.
These programs are meant to diversify campuses but The Times reported that the new effort could be used to sue universities over admissions that allegedly go too far and discriminate against White and Asian applicants.
The news triggered criticism directed at the DOJ.
NAACP Legal Defense Fund Associate Director Janai Nelson told Fox News the Trump administration’s “assault on affirmative action” is “a dismantling of the pillars of our democracy.”
Affirmative action policies in the United States have been controversial almost from the start and have been fought in court.
John King, former education secretary under President Obama, said he was “deeply disheartened” by the Trump administration’s “hard line against efforts to increase campus diversity rather than focusing on addressing the persistent opportunity gaps facing students of color and low-income students.”
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of race in college admissions for the University of Texas, rejecting a challenge brought by a White student. In that case, the court ruled in favor of the university. The ruling made it easier for public colleges and universities to justify reasons for using race in the admissions process.