Trump administration probes complaint that Yale discriminates against Asian-Americans
The Trump administration is investigating allegations that Yale’s admissions policies discriminate against Asian-American applicants — at least the second such investigation by the administration into an Ivy League school.
The investigation, by both the Justice Department and the Education Department, stems from a 2016 complaint filed by the Asian American Coalition for Education against Yale, Brown and Dartmouth.
It’s the latest sign of scrutiny of affirmative action by the Trump administration, which has also accused Harvard of discriminating against Asian-American applicants and scrapped Obama-era guidance that called on school superintendents and colleges to consider race when trying to diversify their campuses.
Civil rights advocates have seen the administration’s actions as part of a broader effort to end affirmative action — policies the Supreme Court has upheld multiple times, but which might be vulnerable through President Donald Trump’s creation of a new conservative majority on the Supreme Court if nominee Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed.
A letter sent to the Asian American Coalition for Education on Wednesday from the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights and obtained by POLITICO says the department is probing the allegations at Yale, in part because they were filed on behalf of a “particular Asian-American applicant.”
The department is investigating “Whether the University discriminated against the Applicant and other Asian-American applicants by treating applicants differently based on race during the admission process,” the letter says.
The letter says DOJ began its inquiry in April.
Yale President Peter Salovey defended the school’s admissions policies in a message to the university Wednesday, noting that the number of Asian-Americans at Yale “has grown from less than 14 percent of the incoming first-year class to 21.7 percent in the Class of 2022.”
“This investigation takes place in the context of legal challenges at other universities aimed at overturning Supreme Court precedent permitting the consideration of race in college admissions,” he wrote. “I write now to state unequivocally that Yale does not discriminate in admissions against Asian Americans or any other racial or ethnic group, to share information about our undergraduate admissions practices, and to affirm our unwavering commitment to diversity as a pillar of this university.”
The Education Department declined to comment on the investigation. DOJ spokeswoman Kelly Laco said in a statement: “The Department of Justice takes extremely seriously any potential violation of an individual’s constitutional rights. At this time, we are not commenting further.”
The Asian American Coalition for Education also filed complaints with both the Education and Justice departments alleging that Harvard discriminated against Asian-American applicants based on their race. The Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights dismissed the complaint in July 2015, citing an ongoing lawsuit against the university over similar issues. But the complaint remains pending with the Civil Rights Division at DOJ.
The DOJ has also waded into a separate court battle over Harvard’s use of race in admissions, siding with a group suing the school and writing in a strongly worded court filing last month that “Harvard’s race-based admissions process significantly disadvantages Asian-American applicants compared to applicants of other racial groups — including both white applicants and applicants from other racial minority groups.”
The lawsuit, which accuses Harvard of discriminating against Asian-American applicants and goes to trial next month, is supported by Ed Blum, a prominent anti-affirmative action activist who has pushed past efforts to end race-conscious admissions policies. The lawsuit is widely viewed as the next opening for critics to convince the Supreme Court to end colleges’ use of race in admissions.
Harvard has blasted the lawsuit, saying it is built on “misleading narratives” and vowing to “continue to vigorously defend the legal right of every college and university to consider race as one factor among many in college admissions, which the Supreme Court has consistently upheld for more than 40 years.”
In a court filing in that case on Wednesday, Harvard called the DOJ’s brief “a thinly veiled attack” on Supreme Court precedent and charged that the administration’s “true objective here appears to be to make it legally impossible for universities to consider race in admissions.”