Aug. 30 (UPI) -- The Department of Justice rebuked Harvard University Thursday while weighing in on a federal lawsuit alleging the school is biased against admitting Asian Americans.
The case's plaintiffs, a group called Students for Fair Admissions, filed the suit in 2014 alleging Harvard intentionally discriminates against Asian-American applicants when making admissions decision. The plaintiffs seek relief from Harvard's alleged discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The civil rights law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance.
In a statement on its filing on the side of plaintiffs Thursday, the Justice Department argued that Harvard has failed to show it does not discriminate against Asian Americans. The Department said plaintiffs have offered "compelling evidence" of discrimination against Asian Americans and should be allowed to prove their claims at a trial.
The Department's statement on its filing said that Harvard has attempted to "racially balance" its student body and called it "patently unconstitutional."
"No American should be denied admission to school because of their race," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement Thursday. "As a recipient of taxpayer dollars, Harvard has a responsibility to conduct its admissions policy without racial discrimination by using meaningful admissions criteria that meet lawful requirements. The Department of Justice has the responsibility to protect the civil rights of the American people. This case is significant because the admissions policies at our colleges and universities are important and must be conducted lawfully."
Harvard has denied the allegations repeatedly, saying it follows guidance from the Supreme Court dating back to the 1970s, and says the suit is part of an ideological campaign to overturn the Supreme Court's affirmative action rulings, The Washington Post reported.
The federal lawsuit likely to be tried in October, the Post reported, could become the next test on whether the Supreme Court is willing to overturn decades of precedent on affirmative action. The Supreme Court has affirmed the practice multiple times, including most recently in 2016, in a suit challenging admission policies at the University of Texas.
Thursday's filing marks the second time the Trump administration has directly intervened in the case this year, the Post reported. In April, the Justice Department urged the judge to allow internal documents about Harvard admissions process to be made public.
The Department also opened a Title VI investigation into Harvard's admissions process last year based upon the complaint filed by more than 60 Asian-American organizations.
According to Harvard University's student profile, the university's class of 2021 is 14.6 percent African-American, 22.2 percent Asian-American, 11.6 percent Hispanic or Latino and 2.5 percent Native American or Pacific Islander. The remaining portion is made up of non-Hispanic white students.