Professor sues U of California System to detect whether it illegally uses race in admissions
- A law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, filed a lawsuit against the state university system on Thursday to obtain records he believes may show it has given minority students preferential treatment in admissions despite a state law that prohibits the consideration of an applicant's race or ethnicity, The New York Times reported.
- Richard Sander said he suspects the University of California System may have illegally reintroduced preferential treatment for African-American students in response to public criticism over the group's enrollment rates. He wants access to records about student outcomes, such as selected majors, grades, graduation rates and post-graduate earnings.
- The system denies that race or ethnicity factor into its admissions decisions. A spokeswoman also said public records law does not cover Sander's request because the university would have to create a customized database to provide him with the information.
The new lawsuit is another instance of a mounting legal effort to challenge affirmative action or perceived preferential treatment in college admissions. The complaint comes only weeks after Harvard University wrapped up a three-week trial over its holistic admissions policy that is expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
The complaint at the center of the Harvard trial alleged the Ivy League college had quotas for Asian-American students and ranked them lower on certain personal qualities despite the group's better test scores. Harvard officials have denied such claims, and said if no consideration were given to race in admissions its minority population would drop by nearly 50%.
That complaint was brought by Students for Fair Admissions, the same conservative group behind an affirmative action lawsuit over the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's admissions policies.
In 2016, the group lost a Supreme Court challenge against the University of Texas at Austin's race-conscious admissions, with the court ruling the college proved racial diversity was valuable to the educational experience and that other race-neutral alternatives weren't sufficient. However, the Supreme Court now has a conservative majority with the recent addition of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, fueling speculation that it may do away with affirmative action if such a case reaches the bench.
Meanwhile, two federal agencies in April opened an investigation into Yale University for possible discrimination against Asian-American students. A coalition of Asian-American groups charged that Yale and some other Ivy League colleges had quotas and treated them unfairly in admissions. And earlier this summer, the Trump administration pulled back Obama-era policies that encouraged the use of race in the admissions process in order to create diverse campuses.