The U.S. Department of Justice filed a discrimination lawsuit against Yale University Thursday after the elite school refused to eliminate race considerations from its admissions process, escalating the fight over the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to rollback university affirmative action policies nationwide.
A two-year investigation by the Justice Department released in August concluded race is “the determinative factor” in hundreds of admissions at Yale, effectively discriminating against Asian American and white applicants with comparable academic credentials to Black applicants who are accepted to the university, investigators said.
The Justice Department ordered Yale not to consider race or national origin in its upcoming undergraduate admission cycle or face legal action. Yale leaders have pushed back on the findings and refused, prompting the lawsuit filed Thursday.
“All persons who apply for admission to colleges and universities should expect and know that they will be judged by their character, talents, and achievements and not the color of their skin,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division. “To do otherwise is to permit our institutions to foster stereotypes, bitterness, and division.”
The investigation into Yale’s admissions practices began in April 2018 when the Justice Department took up complaints that Yale, Harvard and other top universities over-considered race in their extremely competitive admissions processes, thereby violating the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The universities must comply with the landmark legislation that prohibits discrimination based on race or national origin because they receive federal education funding. Although the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled race may be used in limited ways in admissions, which paved the way for affirmative action policies to make higher education more equitable for minority students, the Justice Department concluded race “is anything but limited” in Yale’s admissions process.
Both Yale and Harvard were accused of turning away qualified Asian American applicants to further diversify their student bodies, and federal investigators concluded this summer that Asian American and white applicants to Yale were only 10% to 25% as likely to be admitted as Black students with comparable grades. A judge ruled in Harvard’s favor a year ago, but that case has been appealed.
Zach Murdock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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