• Thursday, June 13, 2024
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US justice department accuses Yale of admissions bias

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The US Department of Justice on Thursday accused Yale University of discriminating against Asian-American and white undergraduate applicants, warning the institution it would face a lawsuit if it did not change its admissions practices.

In a letter to the Ivy League university, the justice department claimed Yale gave unlawful preference to black and Hispanic applicants, and alleged that Asian-American and white students with comparable grades were accepted at a significantly lower rate.

“There is no such thing as a nice form of race discrimination,” said Eric Dreiband, who heads the justice department’s civil division. “Unlawfully dividing Americans into racial and ethnic blocs fosters stereotypes, bitterness, and division.”

The claims are the latest example of the political and legal pressure top US universities have faced in recent years over their affirmative action policies, which conservatives have long sought to unwind.

Similar allegations have been levelled at Harvard University, which last year won a lawsuit brought by a student group alleging it unfairly limited the number of Asian-American applicants it admitted. The case is on appeal, and the justice department has intervened against the university.

Yale on Thursday denied the justice department’s claims and said it looked “at the whole person when selecting whom to admit”. The university said it had “co-operated fully” with the DoJ’s investigation and was continuing to produce data to the government as part of the probe.

“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,” it 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 justice department began investigating Yale in 2018 for possible violations of Title VI of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars race and other discrimination in programmes that receive federal funding. Yale receives federal funding.

It said the probe found Yale’s diversity goals were “vague, elusory, and amorphous” and that the university used race as “predominant criteria that in practice are determinative in many admissions decisions”.

From 2000 through to 2017, the number of places given to Asian-American students was lower than the proportion of applicants from that group, the justice department letter said. It said the same was true for white students in a majority of those years.

“Data produced by Yale show that Asian-American applicants have a much lower chance of admission than do members of Yale’s preferred racial groups, even when those Asian-Americans have much higher academic qualifications and comparable ratings by Yale’s admissions officers,” the letter said.

The justice department threatened to sue Yale if it failed to agree by August 27 to not use “race or national origin” when considering applicants in its 2020-21 admissions cycle, and to get the government’s approval for any plans to use race in admissions in future.