DOJ Probe Finds Decades of Racism in Yale Admissions

John David

CounterCurrent: Week of 8/16


In May 2016, the Asian American Coalition for Education filed a formal complaint against Yale University, Brown University, and Dartmouth College to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The Coalition was joined by over 130 Asian-American organizations and alleged that these three institutions are especially guilty in their discrimination against Asian applicants in undergraduate admissions.

About two years later, in April 2018, this complaint led to the launch of a Department of Justice (DOJ) probe into the use of race in Yale College admissions. The DOJ proceeded to analyze decades’ worth of data over another two-year period. As of Thursday, the results are in: the DOJ has found that Yale does illegally discriminate based on race in undergraduate admissions, most often to the detriment of white and Asian applicants, and is therefore in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. 

The DOJ’s report came in the form of a letter to attorney Peter S. Spivack and claims that Yale “violated, and is continuing to violate, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 … by discriminating on the basis of race and national origin ... in its undergraduate admissions with respect to domestic non-transfer applicants to Yale College.” It also specifies that “Yale’s discrimination is long-standing and ongoing,” stretching back at least to the 1970s.

According to Supreme Court precedent, colleges and universities receiving federal funds are allowed to use race as a factor in admissions. But schools’ policies must satisfy “strict scrutiny” by making sure their processes are “narrowly-tailored,” serve a “compelling interest,” and are limited in time. The DOJ’s report found that Yale has violated all of these requirements, and more, for several decades. 

For example, the investigation found that “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.” [emphasis added] 

In this week’s featured article, I break down the full content of the DOJ’s investigative findings, including the central claims and conclusions, the legal background, the four primary pieces of evidence, and Yale’s own defiance of the accusations and subsequent demands of the report.

The DOJ has given Yale until August 27 to end its racial preference regime for the upcoming academic year. If Yale would like to racially discriminate in the future, it must submit a proposal proving that it has sufficiently amended its admissions policies to be both narrowly tailored and limited in time. Given the response of Yale University President Peter Salovey, it seems that the school will opt for continuing its civil rights violations and will soon face a federal lawsuit. Surely the DOJ will be happy to oblige.

Be sure to read and share our press release, “Scholars Unsurprised by Yale’s Violation of Civil Rights.”


CounterCurrent is the National Association of Scholars’  weekly newsletter, written by Communications & Administrative Associate John David. To subscribe, update your email preferences here.

Image: Coolcaesar, Public Domain

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