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Justice department says Yale admissions practices discriminate against Asian-American and white applicants

Aug. 13, 2020
The university is accused of violating Supreme Court rulings on affirmative action by using race as a determining factor in admissions.

The U.S. Justice Department has accused Yale University of violating civil rights law by discriminating against Asian-American and white applicants.

The New York Times reports that the finding is the Trump administration’s second confrontation with an Ivy League school; two years ago, it publicly backed Asian-American students who accused Harvard University in a lawsuit of systematically discriminating against them.

“There is no such thing as a nice form of race discrimination,” says Eric Dreiband, the assistant attorney general for the civil rights division. “Unlawfully dividing Americans into racial and ethnic blocks fosters stereotypes, bitterness and division.”

The Justice Department says Yale has violated Supreme Court rulings on affirmative action by using race not as one of many factors, but as a predominant or determining factor in admissions.

It ordered Yale to suspend the use of race or national origin in its admissions process for one year. At the end of that year, the university would need to seek clearance from the government to begin using race as a factor again, the department said.

Yale pledged to fight the department’s order, saying that it “categorically denies this allegation” and that it would hold fast to its admissions process. The university says it looks at the “whole person” when deciding whether to admit a student—not just academic achievement, but interests, leadership and “the likelihood that they will contribute to the Yale community and the world.”

Dreiband says evidence indicates that Yale was racially balancing its classes by admitting similar proportions of each major racial group year after year, and that it had not made a serious effort since at least the 1970s to find another way of building a diverse student body.

The Ivy League schools are unapologetic about their use of race and ethnicity as a factor in admissions. Harvard has argued in a Supreme Court brief that while it sets no quotas, if it wants to achieve true diversity it must pay some attention to the numbers of students it admits of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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