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Feds sue Yale, allege discrimination against applicants

Posted October 8, 2020 7:59 p.m. EDT
Updated October 8, 2020 8:00 p.m. EDT

— The Justice Department sued Yale University on Thursday, weeks after prosecutors found the university was illegally discriminating against Asian American and white applicants, in violation of federal civil rights law.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Connecticut, alleges Yale “discriminates based on race and national origin in its undergraduate admissions process, and that race is the determinative factor in hundreds of admissions decisions each year.”

It comes about two months after the Justice Department publicly accused Yale of discrimination, saying its investigation found that Asian American and white students have “only one-tenth to one-fourth of the likelihood of admission as African American applicants with comparable academic credentials.”

Yale called the lawsuit “baseless” and said its admissions practices are fair and lawful. A statement from the university president said Yale will not change its admissions practices as a result of the suit.

“As our country grapples with urgent questions about race and social justice, I have never been more certain that Yale’s approach to undergraduate admissions helps us to fulfill our mission to improve the world today and for future generations,” president Peter Salovey wrote.

The action from the Justice Department is the latest by the Trump administration in a long-running effort aimed at rooting out discrimination in the college application process, following complaints from students about the application process at some Ivy League colleges.

The Justice Department’s investigation — which stemmed from a 2016 complaint against Yale, Brown and Dartmouth — also found that Yale uses race as a factor in multiple steps of the admissions process and that Yale “racially balances its classes," officials said.

“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, who runs the department’s civil rights division. “To do otherwise is to permit our institutions to foster stereotypes, bitterness, and division.”

In August, the Justice Department demanded that Yale immediately stop and agree not to use race or national origin for upcoming admissions, but officials said the university refused.

The Supreme Court has ruled colleges and universities may consider race in admissions decisions but has said that must be done in a narrowly tailored way to promote diversity and should be limited in time. Schools also bear the burden of showing why their consideration of race is appropriate.

Yale has said its practices comply with decades of Supreme Court precedent and that it considers a multitude of factors and looks at “the whole person when selecting whom to admit among the many thousands of highly qualified applicants.”

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Associated Press writer Collin Binkley in Boston contributed to this report.

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