DoJ Reverses Course on Yale Lawsuit

David Acevedo

CounterCurrent: Week of 2/7


Last Wednesday, the Department of Justice (DoJ) dropped its lawsuit against Yale University, which alleged that the school is in ongoing violation of civil rights law by discriminating against white and Asian applicants in undergraduate admissions. The Department’s existing investigation into this matter will remain open for the time being.

The DoJ first accused Yale of said discrimination on August 13, 2020, after concluding a two year-long investigation into the university’s admissions practices. In a public letter, the Department alleged in rather plain language that “Yale University 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 … Yale’s discrimination is long-standing and ongoing.” Yale president Peter Salovey flatly denied these allegations. The DoJ then gave Yale an August 27 deadline to cease its discriminatory practices, warning that failure to do so would result in a federal lawsuit.

Fast-forward two weeks: Yale missed its deadline and the DoJ filed its promised lawsuit on October 8. In its press release, the Department wrote,

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.

Despite the strong, unequivocal language of the DoJ’s communications up until this point, it’s less than surprising that the Department dropped its lawsuit so suddenly, given the new presidential administration. For better or worse, Biden seems hell-bent on reversing or otherwise neutralizing any and all legislation, executive orders, and lawsuits that were initiated during the Trump presidency, even those that were beneficial for civil rights and higher education. Indeed, it appears that Biden seeks to erase Trump from history using his EO-signing pen—to return to the “status quo ante Trump,” as one writer recently put it

We at the National Association of Scholars find this trajectory concerning. The Trump Administration was a mixed bag, to be sure, but it supported many of the causes for which we have advocated for decades, including Title IX reform, concern about foreign influence in higher ed, fighting race and sex preferences and stereotyping, and free speech. To return to the status quo ante Trump is in many ways to return to a less honest, principled, and virtuous academy. We urge Biden and his cabinet to pursue further reform rather than settling for the status quo ante, or worse, actively setting American higher education back.


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

Image: Namkota, Wikimedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license, cropped.

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