Justice Department finds Yale discriminates against Asian, white applicants

The Department of Justice said Thursday that it has concluded Yale University illegally discriminates against Asian American and white undergraduate applicants.

Following a two-year investigation into the Ivy League institution’s admissions practices, the department said Yale uses race as “the determinative factor” in hundreds of annual admissions decisions. For the great majority of students, African American applicants with comparable academic credentials are up to ten times more likely to be admitted than Asian American and white applicants, DOJ concluded.

The department notified Yale of its findings in a letter on Thursday.

“There is no such thing as a nice form of race discrimination,” said Eric Dreiband, an assistant attorney general for DOJ’s civil rights division. “Unlawfully dividing Americans into racial and ethnic blocs fosters stereotypes, bitterness, and division.”

The Trump administration is demanding Yale agree to discontinue the use of race or national origin as a factor in its 2020-21 undergraduate admissions cycle and ordering the university to submit a proposal to the federal government if it plans to do so in the future.

A Yale spokesperson said DOJ reached its determination before allowing the university to provide all information it had requested.

“Had the Department fully received and fairly weighed this information, it would have concluded that Yale’s practices absolutely comply with decades of Supreme Court precedent,” university spokesperson Karen Peart said in a statement. “We are proud of Yale’s admissions practices, and we will not change them on the basis of such a meritless, hasty accusation.”

Key context: The initial investigation, by both the departments of Justice and Education, stems from a 2016 complaint the Asian American Coalition for Education filed against Yale, Brown and Dartmouth.

DOJ’s announcement comes as the Trump administration is backing an attempt to overturn a lower court ruling made by Judge Allison Burroughs in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, which found Harvard University did not intentionally discriminate against prospective Asian American students.

What’s next: The affirmative action case is widely considered to be the Supreme Court’s next opening to potentially ban the policy. That case is set for oral arguments next month.

Bianca Quilantan contributed to this report.


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