Boston: A group based in Texas is suing legal journals at Harvard University and New York University over allegations that they illegally give preference to women and racial minorities when selecting editors and the articles they publish.
The group, called Faculty, Alumni and Students Opposed to Racial Preferences, filed a federal lawsuit against the Harvard Law Review on Saturday and a separate suit against the NYU Law Review on Sunday. They demand that the U.S. Education Department immediately cut federal funding from both schools until the journals stop considering race or sex.
It adds to mounting scrutiny over the way America's elite universities consider race. Harvard will soon go to trial in a lawsuit alleging its admissions office discriminates against Asian-Americans, while the Trump administration says it's investigating similar claims at Harvard and Yale University.
According to the new lawsuits, the student-run journals once chose their editors and articles through merit alone but in recent years started giving weight to women, racial minorities and LGBT applicants. The suits argue that it amounts to illegal discrimination against whites and men, and that it diminishes the prestige for alumni who earned spots in the past.
"Law-review membership is supposed to be an academic honor," the suit against Harvard says. "Now law-review membership at Harvard is part of a politicized spoils system and no longer acts as a reliable signaling device for academic ability or achievement." Leaders of the publications did not comment. A statement from NYU's law school says officials "plan to strongly defend the Law Review and its policies, and have confidence in the outcome."
The group behind the suit did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday. Its website says it's "a voluntary membership organization that litigates against race and sex preferences in academia." It has members from colleges across the country, the site says, but they're kept "strictly confidential."
At top schools, working at the law journal is seen as an honor, and many alumni have gone on to prominent jobs in public service. Past editors of the Harvard Law Review include former President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and four current members of the U.S. Supreme Court.
On their websites, Harvard Law Review and NYU Law Review say they pick most of their editors through writing contests and academic performance, but with some alternate routes to get in. Harvard's journal picks 18 of its 48 members through a "holistic" review, it says, while NYU's journal allows a diversity committee to pick 12 of its 50 editors.
Both journals publish articles from professors, judges and lawyers covering a variety of legal topics.