- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 18, 2003

This month Princeton University and then the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced that they were ending the racial exclusivity of certain summer programs at their respective schools. What's remarkable is that it took them this long.
In neither case was the decision entirely voluntary. The Center for Equal Opportunity and the American Civil Rights Institute contacted Princeton on January 8 this year after we received a fax (from the brother of a disgruntled alumnus) regarding its Junior Summer Institute. Eligibility has been limited to "students of color," and we pointed out that this violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans "discrimination" "on the ground of race, color, or national origin" by recipients of federal funds (and this includes most universities).
We suggested, therefore, that Princeton open the program "to all students, regardless of skin color or ancestry." We also said that, if we didn't receive a satisfactory response, we would file a formal complaint with the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, which administers Title VI for the federal government with respect to federally funded schools.
Princeton looked at its program and reached the conclusion that we were right. Indeed, it turns out that five years ago the Ford Foundation, which had initially funded the program, had also reached this conclusion and had thus stopped its funding.
MIT's story is a bit more complicated. We first wrote to its senior counsel on February 20, 2001, after receiving a complaint from a parent whose child was ineligible for its summer program, which excluded whites and Asians. MIT said it was confident that its program was consistent with federal law, and so we filed a complaint with OCR, which launched an investigation.
That investigation is still ongoing, but in the course of it MIT has concluded that, indeed, a racially exclusive program is indefensible. "Our best advice was that for racially exclusive programs, our chances of winning were essentially zero," said Robert P. Redwine, MIT's dean of undergraduate education. The university's senior counsel added that its decision was based on "an analysis of what our peers were doing around the country, and what conclusion other institutions have reached." So MIT has decided to end the racial exclusivity of its summer programs, too.
We have been in touch with other universities with similarly discriminatory programs in recent years. In addition to admissions preferences, some schools have offered racially exclusive scholarships or other financial aid opportunities, and others have set aside certain faculty positions on the basis of skin color or ethnicity. We have objected to these policies, too, and when necessary have taken our complaints on to the relevant federal agencies.
As a result of the publicity in the last month over Princeton and MIT, we have received information about racially exclusive programs at other schools. This week alone, we have sent out another half-dozen letters. In addition, the National Association of Scholars is alerting its 4500 members across the country and asking them to bring to our attention other discriminatory programs.
Our message is always the same: Continue the programs, by all means, but make them available to all, without regard to skin color or where someone's ancestors came from. Limiting participation to students from disadvantaged backgrounds is fine, but it should not be assumed that all and only students of certain skin colors suffer from disadvantage. If you don't change the programs, then we'll contact the federal government. And, we would add, if the federal government doesn't pursue the matter, there are private attorneys who will.
It is gratifying that schools have generally been willing to change their programs once challenged, but it is disturbing that such clearly illegal programs exist in the first place. The fact that universities have deliberately decided to break the law until caught underscores how important it is that the Supreme Court issue a strong and clear ruling in the cases challenging racial and ethnic admission preferences at the University of Michigan, now pending before the Court.
It will not do for the Court to allow such discrimination so long as it is "narrowly tailored," and then leave it to the discretion and conscience of individual schools to do that tailoring. The universities have shown that they can't be trusted. The Court cannot leave the door to discrimination ajar, or college officials will continue to try to drive a truck through it.

Edward Blum is director of legal affairs at the American Civil Rights Institute (acri.org) and Roger Clegg is general counsel at the Center for Equal Opportunity (ceousa.org).

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