Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Thursday, October 8, 2020
Justice Department Sues Yale University for Illegal Discrimination Practices in Undergraduate Admissions
Race Discrimination Against Applicants to Yale College Violates Federal Civil Rights Law
The Justice Department today filed suit against Yale University for race and national origin discrimination. The complaint alleges that Yale discriminated against applicants to Yale College on the grounds of race and national origin, and that Yale’s discrimination imposes undue and unlawful penalties on racially-disfavored applicants, including in particular most Asian and White applicants.
The complaint also alleges that Yale injures applicants and students because Yale’s race discrimination relies upon and reinforces damaging race-based stereotypes, including in particular such stereotypes against Yale’s racially-favored applicants. And, the complaint alleges that Yale engages in racial balancing by, among other things, keeping the annual percentage of African-American admitted applicants to within one percentage point of the previous year’s admitted class as reflected in U.S. Department of Education data. The complaint alleges similar racial balancing about Asian-American applicants.
The department’s complaint alleges that Yale’s race and national origin discrimination violate Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The lawsuit is the result of a multi-year investigation into allegations of illegal discrimination contained in a complaint filed by Asian American groups concerning Yale’s conduct.
“Illegal race discrimination by colleges and universities must end,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division. “This nation’s highest ideals include the notion that we are all equal under the law. For centuries, people from all over the world have learned of this ideal, left their ancestral homes, and come to the United States hoping that this country would live up to its ideals and that they and their families could enjoy equal opportunity and pursue the American dream. Countless Americans have pursued their dreams through higher education, and they continue to do so. 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. To do otherwise is to permit our institutions to foster stereotypes, bitterness, and division.”
As a condition of receiving millions of dollars in taxpayer funding, Yale expressly agrees to 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. According to the complaint, Yale receives over $600 million annually in federal funds.
Title VI provides in part, “No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, … be subjected to discrimination under any program … receiving Federal financial assistance.” The U.S. Supreme Court repeatedly has struck down discriminatory admissions programs in higher education, and required such programs to be narrowly tailored and not unduly to burden innocent applicants in order to survive. Yale’s practices violate the law.
The Justice Department found 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. For the great majority of applicants, Asian Americans and Whites have only one-eighth to one-fourth of the likelihood of admission as African American applicants with comparable academic credentials. Yale rejects scores of Asian American and White applicants each year based on their race, whom it otherwise would admit.
Although the Supreme Court has held that colleges receiving federal funds may consider applicants’ race in certain limited circumstances as one of a number of factors, the Department of Justice found Yale’s use of race is anything but 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.
Yale refused to agree to the Department of Justice’s demand that Yale refrain from using race or national origin in its current 2020-2021 undergraduate admissions cycle. Yale also failed or refused ever to end its use of race in admissions, and Yale declined even to propose any changes to its pervasive use of race. The department therefore notified Yale that efforts at voluntary compliance had failed and filed suit.
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