The Supreme Court upheld an affirmative-action program at a public university just last year, but yesterday Jeff Sessions’s Department of Justice announced that it was looking into a complaint that raises the question once again.
The developments began on Tuesday evening, when The New York Times claimed it had obtained an address to the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division calling for lawyers to work on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.” Shortly after that, The Washington Post published the job posting. The Times suggested that the Department of Justice was redirecting resources to investigate—and possibly sue—universities and colleges that they believed had discriminated against white students.
By late Wednesday afternoon, the Department of Justice released a statement calling the Times reporting inaccurate. “The posting sought volunteers to investigate one administrative complaint filed by a coalition of 64 Asian-American associations in May 2015 that the prior Administration left unresolved,” said Sarah Isgur Flores, a spokesperson for the DOJ. “The complaint alleges racial discrimination against Asian Americans in a university’s admissions policy and practices.” The student coalition targeted Harvard in its complaint, but because a similar lawsuit had already been filed in federal court, it was dismissed in July 2015 by the Department of Education.
Despite the DOJ’s statement, The Washington Post reported that “two people familiar with discussions in the Civil Rights Division said that the announcement came after career staffers who specialize in education issues refused to work on the investigation out of concerns that it was contrary to the division’s long-standing approach to civil rights in education.”