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Federal Investigation Finds No Anti-Asian Bias in Princeton Admissions

The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights has cleared Princeton University of allegations that it discriminates against Asian and Asian-American applicants in admissions.

Princeton, which announced the civil-rights office’s findings on Wednesday, had come under the scrutiny of the federal civil-rights office as a result of separate discrimination complaints filed by rejected applicants with Asian backgrounds, in 2006 and 2011. The rejected applicants, who asked the federal government to investigate Princeton after being denied admission, argued in their complaints that the university had treated them differently because of their racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Such suspicions have become common among Asian and Asian-American students who believe that selective colleges are either discriminating against them outright or holding them to substantially higher standards than applicants who are black, Hispanic, or Native American.

Asian-American advocacy groups have been on both sides of the debate as the U.S. Supreme Court has weighed the constitutionality of race-conscious admissions policies, and Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have been accused of anti-Asian bias in lawsuits filed last year in federal court.

In a letter this month to Christopher L. Eisgruber, president of Princeton University, the federal civil-rights office said its examination of admissions processes, applicant files, and 15 years’ worth of admissions data at the university had “found no evidence of the different treatment of Asian applicants.” Princeton, to promote diversity, sometimes considers applicants’ race or national origin, but only within the legal parameters outlined by the Supreme Court in its past decisions on affirmative action, the letter said.

The Supreme Court’s guidance on race-conscious admissions policies could change as a result of its decision in June to revisit a lawsuit challenging a race-conscious admissions policy for undergraduates at the University of Texas at Austin.

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