The Catholic University of America


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Sept. 9, 2015 OCR Region II Letter to Princeton University, Case No. 02-08-6002

This OCR compliance review addresses reverse discrimination claims made in 2006 by a student (the student was Jian Li-see WSJ article of Nov. 11, 2006-Is Admissions Bar Higher for Asians at Elite Schools?)  alleging discrimination on the basis of race and national origin against Asian-American applicants to the University and a 2011 complaint alleging discrimination against students of Indian descent.

OCR’s review of the university’s admissions process was made pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Cour decisions in Grutter v. Bollinger, Gratz v. Bollinger, and Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. These decisions collectively found the university must be seeking to achieve a compelling interest in a diverse student body. Princeton made this showing. In addition, race must not be the defining factor in furthering such an interest, and any use of race in admissions must be narrowly tailored.

OCR conducted a lengthy (commenced in January 2008)  review of the University’s process, with a focus on

  •  whether the University considered workable race-neutral alternatives;
  •  whether the admissions program provided for flexible and individualized review of applicants;
  •  whether it unduly burdened students of any racial group; and
  •  whether the consideration of race was limited in time and subject to periodic review.

The 20 page OCR letter sets out the step by step review of the Princeton University’s admissions process. Taking into account 15 years of admissions data, and an in depth review of the Class of 2010 process, OCR’s review found  that race and national origin were not used impermissibly. The use of race was flexible with no quotas, and were only minor factors among many other factors. 

The University had invested considerable time in training admissions staff, reviewing the admissions process annually, and making changes as needed over the years, with the understanding use of race is to be time limited.  A diverse student body is considered an essential aspect of mission at Princeton, and the background work had been undertaken by the University to create the necessary record to support this finding, including extensive outreach and recruitment.

A Policy and Legal Syllabus for Diversity Programs at Colleges and Universities, May 2015, CollegeBoard, ACE and EducationCounsel. This document identifies the issues on affirmative action/diversity initiatives, and is a syllabus of resources.