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July 08, 2015

The U.S. Department of Education is dismissing a claim that Harvard shows bias against Asian-American applicants, because a similar lawsuit has already been filed in federal court.

The story was originally reported by Bloomberg Business after the news organization obtained a letter from the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. According to a statement, the Office can dismiss a complaint when the same allegation, against the same party, seeking the same relief is pending in a court proceeding. 

In May, a coalition of more than 60 organizations filed a complaint with the federal government, alleging that Harvard holds Asian-Americans to higher standards than other ethnic groups. They also complained the university lumps all Asian-Americans - Indian, Chinese, Pakistani - into a single, broad category, and asked the federal government to investigate. On Campus reported this story in May.

Swan Lee helped to organize the coalition.  She claims that the system needs more transparency.

"We feel the Department of Education and the Department of Justice should have access to Harvard's admissions records," says Lee.

Civil rights activists suggest the complaint is a back door attack on affirmative action, and Harvard says its admissions philosophy is “holistic” and it complies with the law.

The Department says it's dismissing the claim without evaluating its merit, because a similar lawsuit had already been filed in federal district court in Boston in November. The group behind that lawsuit, Students for Fair Admissions Inc., is also responsible for another case against the University of North Carolina.

department of education, increasing access and success, discrimination, affirmative action, Harvard

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