NEW HAVEN, Conn. — In a Feb. 3 message to the college community, Yale President Peter Salovey announced that the U.S. Department of Justice has dropped its lawsuit challenging Yale’s undergraduate admissions practices.
“I wrote to you about this matter last August, when the department wrongly alleged that Yale College’s admissions process discriminates against Asian American and white applicants,” Salovey said. “Even though Yale had cooperated with the department and provided data and facts to correct these misconceptions, the department filed suit against Yale in October.
“I am pleased that the department has decided to drop its lawsuit and has withdrawn its notices of violation of Title VI and of noncompliance. Instead, the department will resume the compliance review that it set aside last fall in favor of litigation. Yale welcomes the chance to share information with the department, confident that our admissions process complies fully with decades of Supreme Court decisions.
“Today’s news comes at the start of a new semester, which is a time of reflection and recommitment to Yale’s mission of educating future leaders who will serve all sectors of society. Our ability to realize this shared mission relies on an admissions process that looks at the whole applicant: where applicants come from, what they have accomplished, and what they hope to achieve at Yale and after graduation. In this way, we create an incoming class that is richly diverse — with invaluable benefits to our students, faculty, and community.
“As I think of our students, each of whom had a unique journey to Yale, it is clear to me that they are a diverse group of talented individuals who have so much to contribute to our university, to our country, and to the world. Their stories — and their hopes and dreams — underscore the importance of our unwavering commitment to maintaining an academic environment built on a wide range of strengths and backgrounds.”
According to NPR, Justice Department lawyers submitted a four-sentence “notice of voluntary dismissal” to the U.S. District Court in Connecticut on Wednesday. A DOJ spokesperson confirmed that the department had dismissed the lawsuit “in light of all available facts, circumstances, and legal developments.”
“The department will further review this matter through its administrative process,” the spokesperson said. “The lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice, meaning that neither the United States nor the court has made any final determination in this matter.”
In October, under the previous administration, the DOJ alleged that Yale discriminated against applicants on the grounds of race and national origin, and that Yale’s discrimination imposed undue and unlawful penalties on racially disfavored applicants, including in particular most Asian and white applicants.
The complaint also alleged that Yale injured applicants and students because its race discrimination relies upon and reinforces damaging race-based stereotypes, and that Yale engaged in racial balancing by keeping the annual percentage of African American admitted applicants to within one percentage point of the previous year’s admitted class as reflected in U.S. Department of Education data. The complaint alleged similar racial balancing about Asian American applicants.
The DOJ said at the time that the lawsuit was the result of a multi-year investigation into allegations of illegal discrimination contained in a complaint filed by Asian American groups concerning Yale’s conduct.
Many Asian American organizations did not support the DOJ’s actions. The Yale Asian American Students Alliance said in a statement last August, “To Asian Americans who claim to be concerned about racism: dismantling affirmative action will backfire. Asian Americans have benefited greatly from Black-led civil rights movements, and it is almost hypocritical to have members of our community advocate for reversing what those civil rights leaders fought for.
“Instead of trying to attain similar privileges to white people and become part of the oppressor class, our community needs to rally around anti-racist values. We must turn our focus to the imperialist forces subjugating our homelands through occupation, neocolonialism, and poverty that have forced many of us to relocate to the US, and support our Indigenous and Black comrades, who were oppressed by those same powers, in their struggle for land back and abolition, towards an ultimate goal of liberation and self-determination. Fighting against affirmative action won’t get us there, but collective solidarity will.
“AASA and over 15 other signed organizations firmly condemn the Department of Justice’s conclusions that our university discriminates against white and Asian applicants in undergraduate admissions. This is a thinly veiled ploy to use Asian Americans to attack the system of affirmative action, and maintain unequal access to higher education, at the expense of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx folk.”
Rep. Young Kim (R-Yorba Linda) released the following statement: “President Biden says he wants to bring unity, promote equality, and allow for diverse perspectives in the national conversation. However, between dropping a lawsuit seeking to protect Asian Americans against discrimination in higher education and failing to appoint any Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders to his Cabinet, the Biden Administration appears uncommitted.
“Everyone deserves to be judged on their merits and not discriminated against because of their heritage, race, or background. Discrimination is wrong and goes against our fundamental American values that we hold dear. I will continue to fight to ensure the voices of our Asian American community are heard and make sure that everyone, regardless of their race, has an equal opportunity to succeed and access the promise of America.”
Representative Young Kim’s (R-Yorba Linda) critique of President Biden for “failing to appoint any Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders to his Cabinet” willfully ignores the fact that an Asian American is now but one heartbeat away from the presidency, thanks to the president’s focus on inclusivity and diversity. I might add that in choosing Vice-President Harris as his running mate, the president managed to advance the prominence of both Asian Americans and African Americans without pitting them against each other, as the Trump Department of Justice did so cleverly to advance white supremacy.