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DOJ sues Yale for considering race during admissions process

DOJ sues Yale for considering race during admissions process
© Yale University | Michael Marsland

The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Yale University accusing the school of race and national origin discrimination in its college admissions process.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, accuses Yale University of violating federal civil rights laws for “at least 50 years” by making admission decisions based on a candidate’s race. 

It alleges the university uses an “oversized, standardless, intentional use of race” in its process which favors Black and Hispanic students.

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DOJ alleges that Yale University’s practices place “undue and unlawful penalties on racially-disfavored applicants, including in particular most Asian and White applicants,” according to a press release

“Instead of using race in a narrow, time-limited, and targeted manner to achieve specific and defined educational goals, Yale has institutionalized its use of racial preferences as a permanent feature of its admissions process and decisions,” the complaint said.

The DOJ argues that Yale University can instead create a diverse school body through considering “race-neutral alternatives,” such as socio-economic status and geographic location, and ending favoring of legacy admissions. 

Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division said in a statement that “illegal race discrimination by colleges and universities must end.”

“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,” he said. “To do otherwise is to permit our institutions to foster stereotypes, bitterness, and division.” 

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The lawsuit comes after the department conducted a two-year investigation following a challenge from Asian American groups of the university’s admissions process. DOJ claims that Asian American and white students have one-eighth to one-fourth of the likelihood of admission as African American students “with comparable academic credentials.”

Yale University President Peter Salovey defended the college, saying the use of race is “one element in a multi-stage examination” of an applicant in an effort to diversify the student body, according to a statement obtained by The Hill.

“Yale does not discriminate against applicants of any race or ethnicity. Our admissions practices are completely fair and lawful,” he said. “Yale’s admissions policies will not change as a result of the filing of this baseless lawsuit. We look forward to defending these policies in court."

"Our admissions process considers as many aspects as possible of an applicant’s life experiences and accomplishments. That does include race and ethnicity, but only as one element in a multi-stage examination of the entire application file, which takes into account test scores, grades, teacher recommendations, extracurricular activities, military service, and many other factors," he continued. "No single element is considered independently of the whole application."

The Trump administration has made several moves to stop universities from considering race in their admissions process, but Thursday’s lawsuit is the administration’s most severe action. 

The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of race-based affirmative action practices in several cases, but a conservative-majority court that includes the recently nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett could tip the scales in the opposite direction, Politico noted.