US Justice Department Says Yale Discriminates Against White and Asian College Applicants

The Department of Justice found that Yale University violated federal civil rights law and ordered it to change its admissions process. Yale denies the allegations.
August 14, 2020, 11:51am
yale university
A Yale University student is seen on campus on November 8, 2010 in New Haven, Connecticut. Photo credit: DON EMMERT / AFP

After a two year investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday, August 13, found that Yale University discriminates against Asian American and white applicants when considering its admissions process. 

In its notice, the Department of Justice ruled that Yale University violated federal civil rights law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race or national origin. It claimed that the university’s “oversized use of race” gives preference to African American and Hispanic applicants and puts Asian American and White applicants at a disadvantage.

“Yale’s discrimination is longstanding and ongoing,” the DOJ 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.” 

“For the great majority of applicants, Asian American and White applicants have only one-tenth to one-fourth of the likelihood of admission as African American applicants with comparable academic credentials,” the notice added.

The DOJ is ordering Yale to agree to adjust their admissions processes within two weeks or face a possible lawsuit. 

Yale University President Peter Salovey published a statement in response, calling the DOJ’s allegations “baseless” and pledging not to change its admissions practices. 

He said that the school would continue looking at students’ accomplishments as a factor for admission and would strive to create a student body “rich in a diverse range of ideas, expertise, and experiences.”  

“We will continue to look at the whole person when selecting whom to admit among the many thousands of highly qualified applicants,” Salovey said. 

Yale University accepted 6.54 percent of applicants from a pool of 35,220 this year. According to Yale, the population of the entire university, including graduate schools, was 42.7 percent white, 14.7 percent Asian, 9.8 percent Hispanic, and 5.8 percent Black. 

News of the investigation reached Chinese netizens on Chinese micro-blogging Weibo.

One comment from a Weibo user read: "This is one of America's top universities and it still allows this kind of discrimination to continue? And it comes from the country that actively slams China, how two-faced."

The DOJ investigation stems from a 2016 complaint by a coalition of over 100 Asian-American groups about the racially-conscious admissions practices of Yale, Brown and Dartmouth.

The Thursday announcement comes as the Justice Department pushes to overturn a lower court ruling, which said that Harvard University does not discriminate against Asian-American applicants. 

“There is no such thing as a nice form of race discrimination,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division said in a press release.

“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.” 

Several public figures spoke out against the ruling, urging the Department of Justice to take a look at issues surrounding legacy admissions instead.

Korean-American author Min Jin Lee, who graduated from Yale in 1990, said that everyone should be “sick and tired of structural inequities and racism .. and how the very rich game the system for their children.” 

She added that she “supports affirmative action unequivocally.”

Edward Blum, president of Students for Fair Admissions and the legal strategist behind the lawsuit challenging Harvard’s admissions practices, applauded the DOJ findings. According to The New York Times, Blum has spoken out against affirmative action and has helped coordinate over two dozen lawsuits challenging racial bias laws.

“All of the Ivy League and other competitive universities admit to using racial classifications and preferences in their admissions policies,” Blum told The Times. “This investigation reinforces the need for all universities to end race-based admissions policies.”