The Department of Justice requested that Yale University stop using data on race in its application process after a federal investigation found that the university heavily discriminates against Asian American and white applicants.
Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, who heads the DOJ’s office on civil rights, sent a letter to Washington, D.C., attorney Peter Spivack on Thursday outlining the findings of a two-year investigation into Yale’s admissions process and threatening a lawsuit if nothing is done to correct the university’s decades-old discriminatory tactics.
“I write to notify you that the United States Department of Justice has determined that Yale University violated, and is continuing to violate, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Dreiband said, adding that Yale is “discriminating on the basis of race and national origin” in undergraduate admissions and the university’s “discrimination is long-standing and ongoing.”
The federal investigation into Yale’s admissions practices stemmed from a 2016 complaint filed with the DOJ and Department of Education alleging the university discriminates against Asian Americans. Brown University and Dartmouth College were also included in the complaint.
Yale said that it “categorically denies this allegation,” asserting that information the federal government had requested but the university has yet to turn over would disprove the DOJ’s allegation, according to a statement the university gave to CBS News.
“Given our commitment to complying with federal law, we are dismayed that the DOJ has made its determination before allowing Yale to provide all the information the Department has requested thus far,” the university said in a statement. “Had the Department fully received and fairly weighed this information, it would have concluded that Yale’s practices absolutely comply with decades of Supreme Court precedent.”
Yale’s admissions process considers “the whole person when selecting whom to admit among the many thousands of highly qualified applicants,” the university said. “We are proud of Yale’s admissions practices, and we will not change them on the basis of such a meritless, hasty accusation.”
The DOJ, citing data on Yale’s admissions, said that the university heavily discriminates against Asian American and white applicants to the point that they have “only one-tenth to one-fourth of the likelihood of admission as African American applicants with comparable academic credentials.”
“Yale asserts that it has a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits of diversity,” Dreiband says, but “it appears Yale’s diversity goals are not sufficiently measurable. Our investigation indicates that Yale’s diversity goals appear to be vague, elusory, and amorphous. Yale’s use of race appears to be standardless, and Yale does virtually nothing to cabin, limit, or define its use of race during the Yale College admissions process.”
The university admissions process uses race as a “predominant criteria” and “discrimination affects hundreds of admissions decisions each year,” according to the letter. From 2000 to 2017, the acceptance rate of Asian Americans fell below their proportion of the applicant pool every year, “even when those Asian Americans have much higher academic qualifications and comparable ratings by Yale’s admissions officers.” The university also admitted white applicants at a rate below their proportion of the applicant pool most years, as well.
The DOJ said that Yale should take race out of its consideration for admittance for the 2020-2021 undergraduate class and submit a plan to the department of restructuring its admissions process to comply with Title VI.
“Please be advised that if Yale does not agree to this remedial measure by August 27, 2020, we may determine that ‘compliance cannot be secured by voluntary means,’” the letter says. “If we make that determination, the Department will be prepared to file a lawsuit to enforce Yale’s Title VI obligations.”
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