Such steering may be illegal, according to an article in the latest CHE:
Breaking new ground in its enforcement of civil-rights laws, the Education Department is investigating whether a Columbia University professor discriminated against a student by steering her away from a course on the basis of her Jewish background.
… The investigation of Columbia University by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights is examining whether [there was a civil rights violation] when an academic department chairwoman allegedly discouraged an Orthodox Jewish student from taking a class taught by a professor who has been accused of anti-Israel bias.
Although the Education Department has often investigated complaints that elementary or secondary schools illegally tracked students into low- or high-ability classes based on their ethnicity or race, several veteran higher-education lawyers said Tuesday that they could not recall any similar investigation of alleged discrimination in academic advising at a college.
In considering the idea that bias in academic advising could violate federal civil-rights laws, the Office for Civil Rights could be opening the door to similar investigations involving other forms of discrimination, such as cases involving female students who were discouraged from enrolling in engineering programs considered unwelcoming to women, or black students whose race was cited by advisers who encouraged them to major in black studies.
Arthur L. Coleman, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of education in the Office for Civil Rights who now is a managing partner at EducationCounsel, a firm that advises colleges, declined to comment specifically on the Columbia controversy. But in general, he said, colleges seek to avoid even subtly steering students into certain classes or fields based on their race, ethnicity, or gender.
Noting that colleges’ efforts to promote diversity on campus are premised on the assumption that such diversity promotes the robust exchange of ideas, Mr. Coleman said any steering of students to avoid exposing them to disagreements in the classroom “raises a set of fundamental concerns” related to a college’s educational mission.
As far as I can see, “anti-Israel” bias is considered as a clash of ideas. There is a question about whether sexism – in the form, say, of “being unwelcoming to women” – would be analogous.
There is a difficulty, it seems to me, in that a climate hostile to women is supposed to be illegal. Perhaps, though, it can be illegal to steer peple away from academic depts with illegal activities if one does it because of the students’ ethnicity or gender.