A press release from the Department of Justice reads: “Yale’s discrimination imposes undue and unlawful penalties on racially-disfavored applicants, including in particular most Asian and White applicants.”
This type of behavior is illegal under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but schools have been discriminating against certain students nevertheless, often under the veil of affirmative action. Title VI of the Act prohibits any discrimination on the basis of a person’s race, color or natural origin in any programs receiving federal financial assistance. Yale receives more than $630 million each year in federal funds.
One of the problems identified by the DOJ was the significantly higher standards that White and Asian applicants needed to meet to get into Yale compared to those required of other groups of students. They said that Asian-American and White students had just one-eighth to one-fourth of the chances of being admitted to the school as African-American students with comparable academic credentials. In other words, the prestigious university is rejecting White and Asian applicants based on their race in a process that favors Black and Hispanic students.
The lawsuit contends that from 2000 to 2017, the percentage of Hispanic and Black students admitted to Yale was higher than the percentage of students who applied, while the percentages of White and Asian-American students who were admitted was lower than the percentage who applied.
The lawsuit comes after a two-year civil right investigation into the school following complaints by Asian-American groups. Yale recently refused to cooperate with a federal investigation into its use of race-based admission practices. Some Asian-American groups have even launched campaigns against the practices used by Yale and other elite universities that often work against these students.
In August, the DOJ told Yale to stop using national origin and race in its 2020-2021 admissions cycle, giving them an August 27 deadline to comply or face a federal lawsuit. At that time, the university said they had no plans to change their admissions process. The complaint mentions that Yale refused an “opportunity for voluntary compliance without litigation.”
The school’s president, Peter Salovey, called the lawsuit “baseless” and claimed its allegations were based on “inaccurate statistics and unfounded conclusions.” He added that they look forward to defending their policies in court. According to Salovey, race and ethnicity are only part of the story; life experiences, accomplishments, grades, test scores, extracurriculars, military service and recommendations from teachers are also considered. However, the U.S. insists that Yale is using ethnic and racial data as “the determinative factor” in its admissions decisions.
The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction to stop Yale from factoring race into future undergrad admissions decisions, along with damages. The DOJ maintains that Yale can create a more diverse student body by considering so-called race-neutral alternatives instead like geographic location and socio-economic status in its admissions process.
Harvard University has also been accused by the Department of Justice of discriminating against Asian-Americans and using “outright racial balancing.” Although a federal judge cleared them of discrimination last year, an appeal is currently underway. Meanwhile, the Education Department recently announced it would be investigating Princeton University.
Although measures put in place in the past aimed at curbing this type of behavior have not been particularly successful, a lawsuit by the Justice Department could well serve as a warning to other elite universities who are rejecting qualified students of certain races in their pursuit of "equality."
Sources for this article include: