Blunder in Affirmative Action Case May Cost Harvard $15 Million
The University of Cambridge says it has been hit by a major legal setback as a result of the school’s affirmative action program.
The university has acknowledged in a statement that a review conducted by Harvard’s Office for Civil Rights under Title VI and Title VII guidelines “found that the University discriminated in its admission policies.”
The university says it has been “working to rectify” its admission policies following the review, which was commissioned by the Office for Civil Rights.
Harvard has also promised to refund about $15 million to minorities, with $7 million to be paid to individual applicants and $8.9 million to be given to Harvard, which has a strong black student body.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court appears set to consider the question of whether universities and colleges may consider race in making admissions decisions.
The high court will hear oral arguments Tuesday in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas.
The school says it is considering whether race is a permissible use in college admissions. But its position has been rejected by the court.
In a blistering dissent, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote that the school’s policies “may give an advantage to a very small group of people who have no business being in the group.”
O’Connor specifically addressed Harvard’s admission policies:
“…the University may not continue to use admissions policies—such as race-based admissions and the use of race in hiring—that have been declared illegal under our precedents. Instead, it must change its admission policies in ways that are narrowly tailored to remedy the identified harm with minimal adverse impact on the rights of other members of the University community of which it is a part.”
O’Connor’s view is shared by the other justices, who have found that the University of Texas’s admissions policies are unconstitutional.
The University of Texas declined NPR’s request for an interview, but said in a statement that the school “is in the process of changing its admission requirements and will soon be reevaluating its admissions policies and practices to include race as a factor.”
Other colleges have also been hit with lawsuits over their use of race in admissions decisions.
In 1997, the University of Pennsylvania found itself in a similar situation. The school had adopted a new admissions policy limiting minority enrollment in a way that may have “discriminated” on the basis of race,