News & Notes: Anti-affirmative action group files lawsuit request related to U. investigation| Oct 27, 2016
Students for Fair Admissions filed a lawsuit against the United States Department of Education on Thursday related to the Department of Education’s investigation into the University’s admission practices concerning Asian-Americans.
The complaint, filed in the federal district court in the District of Columbia, alleges that the Department of Education has failed, contrary to its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act, to produce documents related to the Department’s investigation into the University.
The investigation ended in September 2015 with a determination by the Department’s Office of Civil Rights that “there was insufficient evidence to substantiate that the University violated Title VI,” which prohibits racial discrimination in programs receiving federal assistance.
SFFA is run by Edward Blum, who unsuccessfully attempted to persuade the Supreme Court earlier this year to find that the University of Texas’ race-conscious admissions program violated the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.
The decision upholding the University of Texas’ program, known as Fisher II, prompted a June 23 statement from President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 praising the Court’s decision, saying that “[p]olicies like the one approved by the Court today are critically important to Princeton University and institutions of higher education across America.”
In announcing Thursday’s complaint, Blum called on the University to end its affirmative action policy. SFFA had previously sent the University a letter in March 2015 advising the University of its supposed legal duty to preserve admission files.
Thursday’s complaint, regarding the Department of Education’s obligations under the Freedom of Information Act, alleges that the Department has not responded in a timely manner to SFFA’s request for public records.
Regardless of the legality of the wait time, SFFA’s experience does not seem to be out of the ordinary. A congressional hearing examining Freedom of Information Act issues in June 2015 revealed that “[t]he lack of timeliness in response to requests was one of the biggest concerns coming from the testimony.”
Despite setbacks to numerous attempts to challenge the legality of various affirmative action programs, SFFA is currently pursuing a lawsuit against Harvard University. In connection with that lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs asked Harvard to disclose “academic, extracurricular and demographic information of its applicants,” according to the Yale Daily News.
It is unclear if SFFA intends to use the documents related to the University in connection with its lawsuit against Harvard or if it is exploring an action against the University, among other potential purposes.
In May, separate from SFFA, over 100 Asian-American organizations filed a new complaint with the Department of Justice and the Department of Education alleging that Brown University, Dartmouth College and Yale University discriminated against Asian-American applicants.