Suits Against Harvard and NYU Law Reviews Claim Racial, Gender Preferences

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Suits Against Harvard and NYU Law Reviews Claim Racial, Gender Preferences

Two prestigious law reviews have been sued over what the plaintiff alleges are illegal racial and gender preferences for membership and article selection.

A Texas-based group called Faculty, Alumni, and Students Opposed to Racial Preferences (FASORP) sued the Harvard Law Review on Oct. 6 and the New York University Law Review on Sunday, claiming that their racial and gender preference policies violate federal anti-discrimination laws. The lawsuits come at a time when law reviews—the traditional bastion of white males—are celebrating the increased diversity of their membership ranks. Harvard Law School, for example, had its first black women editor in 2017. The Columbia Law Review has its first black male editor ever this year.

Harvard University is already defending itself in a high-profile lawsuit in which Asian-Americans contend that the campus’ admissions policies violate their rights by favoring other minority applicants.

The new suits allege that policies at both law reviews violate the rights of students by giving women and minorities an unlawful advantage in getting onto those sought-after organizations. Moreover, the suits allege policies that give a preference to articles written by women and minority scholars violate the rights of others hoping to place articles there.

“Harvard Law School and Harvard University are violating Title VI and Title IX by allowing the Harvard Law Review to use race and sex preferences when selecting its members, editors, and articles—in direct contravention of the Law School’s supposed non-discrimination policy,” read the Harvard Law Review suit.

Representatives from the Harvard Law Review did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday. New York University Law School issued a statement that it plans “to strongly defend the Law Review and its policies, and we have confidence in the outcome.”

It’s not clear who, exactly, FASORP is. The suit claims it is an organization that “seeks to restore meritocracy at American universities by eliminating the use of race and sex preferences.” Its website, however, offers few clues as to who is a member, the group’s size, and its leadership. Instead, its website is primarily devoted to requests for faculty, students and alumni to report instances of racial preferences on campus.

The group’s Austin-based attorney, Jonathan Mitchell, declined to comment about the suit or FASORP when reached Monday.

The NYU law review suit alleges that the organization selects 12 of its 50 student members through a “diversity committee,” while the Harvard one claims 18 of its 48 new members are selected through a “holistic” review process that takes race into account.

“The Law Review’s website is cagey on exactly how this ‘holistic’ evaluation is conducted, but it provides assurances that it “remains strongly committed to a diverse and inclusive membership,” it reads.

The suits, which also name the law schools and universities that house the law reviews, as well as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, seeks to enjoin the law reviews from considering race, gender, sexual orientation or sexual identity when selecting members or article for publication.