Justice Division drops swimsuit accusing Yale of discriminating in opposition to White and Asian candidates, in reversal from Trump period

Students walk on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

Shannon Stapleton | Reuters

The Department of Justice on Wednesday dropped a case against Yale University in which it alleged that the Ivy League institution was discriminating against White and Asian applicants in its admissions process.

The decision, announced in a filing in federal district court in Connecticut, marks a reversal from the Justice Department’s stance under President Donald Trump.

Yale had denied the allegations that its admissions practices were discriminatory. In a statement, spokeswoman Karen Peart said that the school was “gratified” by the DOJ’s decision.

“Our admissions process has allowed Yale College to assemble an unparalleled student body, which is distinguished by its academic excellence and diversity,” Peart said. 

The Justice Department under Trump targeted higher education institutions for admissions practices that factored in applicants race and country of origin.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld race-conscious admissions practices, though it has placed limits on how significant a factor race can be.

The Justice Department announced in August that a two-year investigation determined that Yale’s practices were unlawful.

“Although the Supreme Court has held that colleges receiving federal funds may consider applicants’ race in certain limited circumstances as one of a number of factors, the Department of Justice found Yale’s use of race is anything but limited,” the department said in a press release at the time.

The department said that Yale used race “at multiple steps of its admissions process resulting in a multiplied effect of race on an applicant’s likelihood of admission, and Yale racially balances its classes.”

Factoring race into admissions processes is common among U.S. universities, though it remains controversial.

In November, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a separate lawsuit challenging Harvard University’s use of race in admissions, alleging the school was discriminating against Asians.

The Justice Department sided with Students for Fair Admissions, the group behind the lawsuit, in a friend-of-the-court brief in that case.

Edward Blum, the conservative strategist who founded Students for Fair Admissions, said it was likely that his group would appeal their loss to the Supreme Court.

The last time the top court considered affirmative action, in 2016, it narrowly upheld the practice as applied at the University of Texas at Austin. But since that time, the court has gained a 6-3 conservative majority, making it more likely that the court could rule against affirmative action, or further limit it, in the future.

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