DOJ Lawsuit: Yale Discriminates Against Asian, White Applicants

Oct 9, 2020

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Yale on Thursday that claims its undergraduate admissions process discriminates against Asian and white applicants in violation of the 1964 Civl Rights Act. Some civil rights attorneys see the lawsuit as a threat to affirmative action.

The U.S. Department of Justice ended a two-year investigation of Yale undergraduate admissions in August. It found Yale violates Supreme Court guidelines on affirmative action because it considers race at every step.

The DOJ said in a release "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 President Peter Salovey denied the finding in a statement to the student body on Thursday night, writing: "Yale does not discriminate against applicants of any race or ethnicity. 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."

Cara McClellan is assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, which also helped defend a similar lawsuit against Harvard admission policies. McClellan filed a freedom of information request for evidence that the DOJ used to conclude Yale rejects too many Asian and white applicants.

"The complaint does not explain why it’s because of their race and even after reading it, one is left wondering: ‘How do they know how Yale is considering race and to what extent?'” McClellan says.

Salovey's statement describes race as one part of the application picture: "Our admissions process considers as many aspects as possible of an applicant’s life experiences and accomplishments. That does include race and ethnicity, but only as one element in a multi-stage examination of the entire application file." 

McClellan also says it’s a problem that the DOJ lawsuit excludes South Asian applicants from its definition of “Asian American,” which is a diverse community.

A complaint filed by Asian American Coalition for Education prompted the investigation into Yale admissions. The group did not respond to requests for comment.