Ever since it was dragged before the Supreme Court over its affirmative action policies, Harvard University has insisted that it does not discriminate based on race. But the school appears to be running an internship that prohibits whites from applying.
McLean Hospital, which describes itself as the "largest psychiatric teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School," has since 2021 hosted a paid research program for "Black, Indigenous, and underrepresented people of color," according to the hospital’s website. The 10-week internship offers participants a $7,000 stipend and places them in prestigious labs.
The internship may ramp up legal scrutiny on America’s oldest Ivy, which, alongside the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, is battling a high-profile lawsuit from Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit opposed to affirmative action.
That scrutiny hasn’t stopped either school from promoting discriminatory programs: UNC Chapel Hill has at least five scholarships, fellowships, and other initiatives that are available only to minorities; a sixth initiative, exclusively for "BIPOC" students, was made available to all races following a discrimination complaint.
Lawyers say that these programs violate civil rights law and demonstrate just how committed universities are to racial preferences.
"UNC and Harvard have been doubling down on Ibram Kendi-style ‘you have to be racist to be anti-racist’ programming," said Ilya Shapiro, the director of constitutional studies at the Manhattan Institute. "Not only are these clear-cut legal violations, but it’s not a good look as the Supreme Court scrutinizes the use of racial preferences in admissions."
The McLean internship likely violates the Civil Rights Act of 1866—now codified as section 1981 in the United States legal code—which bans race discrimination in contracting, according to Jonathan Berry, a partner at Boyden Gray & Associates, and Dan Morenoff, the executive director of the American Civil Rights Project. It may also violate Title VI, which bans race discrimination by federally funded entities, Morenoff said.
Though Harvard states on its website that it "does not own or operate" its teaching hospitals, it does appear to be operating this program. The internship’s director, Oluwarotimi Folorunso, and its principal investigator, Elena Chartoff, both hold posts at Harvard Medical School, and McLean's website directs questions about the program to a Harvard.edu email address.
"At a minimum, it looks like Harvard is facilitating McLean's race-based system," Berry said. The fact that Harvard employees run the program, he added, "increases the likelihood Harvard would be liable alongside McLean" in the event of a lawsuit.
Harvard and McLean did not respond to requests for comment.
Though universities are currently allowed to use race as a "plus factor" in admissions, that could soon change. Students for Fair Admissions is asking the Supreme Court to outlaw affirmative action entirely, arguing that it violates Title VI and—when done by public universities—the 14th Amendment as well.
The Court’s conservative justices have repeatedly expressed sympathy for that argument. A ruling in the case, Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, is expected later this year.