Yale University was sued by the U.S. Department of Justice, which claims the Ivy League school illegally discriminates against White and Asian-American applicants in undergraduate admissions by favoring Black and Hispanic ones.
The lawsuit appears to be a part of the Trump administration’s campaign against programs in higher education as well as corporate America meant to correct historic discrimination against the Black community. The Labor Department recently sent letters to Microsoft Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. asking how their efforts to double their ranks of Black leaders comply with laws limiting the consideration of race in employment.
The lawsuit, which was filed Thursday in federal court in Connecticut, was previously threatened by the government in a letter that gave the university a deadline to agree to stop considering an applicant’s race or national origin in its 2020-2021 admissions cycle. Yale responded immediately that it would never abandon its race-conscious process.
“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,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said in a statement. “To do otherwise is to permit our institutions to foster stereotypes, bitterness, and division.”
The Justice Department two years ago threw its weight behind a lawsuit alleging Harvard University discriminates against Asian-American applicants, and the Education Department last month said it was opening an investigation of Princeton University after the university’s president stated that “racism and the damage it does to people of color nevertheless persist at Princeton as in our society” as part of an announcement of initiatives to diversify the school.
The U.S. claims Yale is violating federal civil rights law by using the racial and ethnic data as “the determinative factor” in hundreds of admissions decisions each year, rather than as one of many considerations, as the Supreme Court has allowed.
“I want to be clear: Yale does not discriminate against applicants of any race or ethnicity,” Yale President Peter Salovey said in a statement. “Our admissions practices are completely fair and lawful. 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.”
The New Haven, Connecticut, university has said that its use of race in admissions “is fully in accord with Supreme Court precedent, and we hope to have the opportunity to explain our position” to the Justice Department.
According to the Justice Department’s lawsuit, from 2000 to 2017, the percentage of Black and Hispanic students that was admitted to Yale was higher than the percentage that applied, whereas the percentage of Asian-American and White students that was admitted was lower than the percentage that applied.
That, according to the Justice Department, is part of illegal discrimination to ensure a racially-balanced student body.
Trump has issued an executive order prohibiting what he termed “divisive and harmful sex and race-based ideologies” in government departments and among federal contractors.
A few weeks ago, I BANNED efforts to indoctrinate government employees with divisive and harmful sex and race-based ideologies. Today, I’ve expanded that ban to people and companies that do business…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 22, 2020
The university has said it looks at applicants as a whole in choosing among thousands of highly qualified students. Spokeswoman Karen Peart said before the lawsuit was filed that Yale weighs a multitude of factors, including “demonstrated leadership, background, success in taking maximum advantage of their secondary school and community resources, and the likelihood that they will contribute to the Yale community and the world.”
Yale said it recruits applicants from low-income homes well as those who are the first in their families to attend college but that those efforts alone aren’t enough “to achieve the diversity of experience and background that Yale seeks.”
–With assistance from Janet Lorin.
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