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NEW HAVEN — The Department of Justice Thursday notified Yale University that it has found the university illegally discriminates against Asian-American and white applicants in its undergraduate admissions process.
The two-year investigation focused on Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, after a complaint was made by Asian-American groups at Yale, according to a press release.
“There is no such thing as a nice form of race discrimination,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division.
“Unlawfully dividing Americans into racial and ethnic blocs fosters stereotypes, bitterness, and division. It is past time for American institutions to recognize that all people should be treated with decency and respect and without unlawful regard to the color of their skin,” Dreiband said in a statement. “In 1890, Frederick Douglass explained that the ‘business of government is to hold its broad shield over all and to see that every American citizen is alike and equally protected in his civil and personal rights.’ The Department of Justice agrees and will continue to fight for the civil rights of all people throughout our nation.”
Thursday night, Yale President Peter Salovey issued a statement titled “Yale’s Steadfast Commitment to Diversity.”
“The department’s allegation is baseless,” Salovey said, Despite producing “large quantities of documents and data … the DOJ concluded its investigation before reviewing and receiving all the information it has requested,” he wrote.
“I am dismayed that the DOJ inexplicably rushed to conclude its investigation without conducting a fully informed analysis, which would have shown that Yale’s practices absolutely comply with decades of Supreme Court precedent,” Salovey wrote. He said Yale “will not change its admissions processes in response to today’s letter because the DOJ is seeking to impose a standard that is inconsistent with existing law.”
Salovey concluded, “By bringing people of different backgrounds, talents, and perspectives together, we best prepare our students for a complex and dynamic world. Yale’s admissions practices help us realize our mission to improve the world today and for future generations. At this unique moment in our history, when so much attention properly is being paid to issues of race, Yale will not waver in its commitment to educating a student body whose diversity is a mark of its excellence.”
Scot X. Esdaile, president of the Connecticut chapter of the NAACP, said, “This looks like a right-wing reaction from the Department of Justice attacking special measures that were being made to make classrooms equitable on Yale’s and Harvard’s campuses.”
In October 2019, a federal judge rejected a lawsuit against Harvard University brought by Students for Fair Admissions, a group of Asian Americans who had been rejected by Harvard. The group claimed Harvard favored other people of color over Asian Americans in its admissions policies. The Justice Department filed a brief supporting the plaintiffs in that suit.
U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs wrote that the university could consider race as a factor in order to achieve a diverse student body. “The rich diversity at Harvard and other colleges and universities and the benefits that flow from that diversity will foster the tolerance, acceptance and understanding that will ultimately make race conscious admissions obsolete,” she wrote.
Students for Fair Admissions has appealed the decision to the 1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
Edward Blum, president of nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions, said in an email Thursday, “We applaud the Justice Department’s extensive investigation into Yale’s racially discriminatory admissions policies.”
“The Justice Department’s findings of decades-old, purposeful racial discrimination in admissions is not surprising since all of the Ivy League and other competitive universities admit to using racial classifications and preferences in their admissions policies. This investigation reinforces the need for all universities to end race-based admissions policies.”
“Our nation’s civil rights laws and Constitution must be interpreted to forbid the use of race and ethnicity in college admissions,” Blum said. “In our multi-racial and multi-ethnic nation, the admissions’ bar cannot be raised for some races and ethnicities, and lowered for others.”
Letter to Attorney Spivack Yale 8.13.2020 0 (1) by Helen Bennett on Scribd
The Department of Justice found Yale discriminates based on race and national origin in its undergraduate admissions process, and that race is the determinative factor in hundreds of admission decisions each year. For the great majority of applicants, Asian Americans and whites have only one-tenth to one-fourth of the likelihood of admission as African-American applicants with comparable academic credentials, according to the release.
Yale rejects scores of Asian-American and white applicants each year based on their race, whom it otherwise would admit, according to the Justice Department.
Although the Supreme Court has held that colleges receiving federal funds may consider applicants’ race, the Department of Justice found Yale’s use of race is not sufficiently limited. Yale uses race at multiple steps of its admissions process, resulting in a multiplied effect of race on an applicant’s likelihood of admission, and Yale racially balances its classes, the department says.
The Department of Justice has demanded Yale agree not to use race or national origin in its upcoming 2020-21 undergraduate admissions cycle, and, if Yale proposes to consider race or national origin in future admissions cycles, it must first submit to the Department of Justice a plan demonstrating its proposal is narrowly tailored as required by law, including by identifying a date for the end of race discrimination.
“We would like to secure Yale’s compliance with Title VI by voluntary means,” Dreiband wrote. To that end, Yale must agree not to use race or national origin in its upcoming 2020-2021 undergraduate admissions cycle, and, if Yale proposes to consider race or national origin in future admissions cycles, it must first submit to the Department of Justice a plan demonstrating that its proposal is narrowly tailored as required by law. Any such proposal should include an end date to Yale’s use of race.”
The Justice Department said if Yale refuses to comply it will file a lawsuit against the university to force Yale to abide by Title VI.
Because Yale receives millions of dollars in taxpayer funds, it must comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a cornerstone civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance.
The Justice Department launched its investigation of Yale’s admission policies in April 2018. In Friday’s letter to attorney Peter Spivack of Washington, D.C., Dreiband wrote: “Yale grants substantial, and often determinative, preferences based on race to certain racially-favored applicants and relatively and significantly disfavors other applicants because of their race. Yale’s race discrimination imposes undue and unlawful penalties on racially-disfavored applicants, including in particular Asian American and White applicants.”
Dreiband said “the likelihood of admission for Asian American and White applicants who have similar academic credentials is significantly lower than for African American and Hispanic applicants to Yale College,” with Asian American and white applicants having “one-tenth to one-fourth of the likelihood of admission as African American applicants with comparable academic credentials.”
He said, “it appears Yale’s diversity goals are not sufficiently measurable … not narrowly tailored” and that the university “uses race at multiple points in its admissions process.”
“Yale’s race discrimination dates back more than four decades, to at least the 1970s, and Yale’s race discrimination contains no time limits,” Dreiband wrote. “Instead, it appears that Yale intends to continue discriminating on the basis of race, apparently in perpetuity. Indeed, Yale admits that it intends to continue its race-based admissions process for the ‘foreseeable future.’”
“The totality of the information produced by Yale demonstrates that Yale’s multi-decade use of race continues unabated without any serious effort by Yale to consider an admissions process that is free of race discrimination,” the Justice Department letter stated.
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