Biden's Justice Department Drops Discrimination Lawsuit Against Yale

Yale students on campus / Getty Images
February 3, 2021

The Justice Department on Wednesday abandoned its Trump-era lawsuit that claimed Yale University discriminated against Asian and white applicants during its admissions process.

The decision upends the department's two-year investigation of the university, which concluded in August. Federal investigators initially found that Yale's admissions process is discriminatory and unlawful because "preferred racial groups" are more likely to be admitted than equally qualified Asian and white applicants.

The Justice Department previously threatened to sue Yale if it continued using race as a predominant factor. A department spokesman said at the time that Yale's case was different from other affirmative action cases because the school often used race as the "determinative" factor for admitting students.  

Black students with the same academic qualifications as Asian students were up to eight times as likely to gain admission to Yale, the Washington Free Beacon reported last year

Yale spokeswoman Karen Peart said the school is "grateful" for the Justice Department's decision. The school has denied all allegations that it treated Asian and white applicants unfairly during its admissions process. 

The move signifies the Justice Department could also reverse its decision to back Students for Fair Admissions in the group's lawsuit against Harvard University. In 2014, the group sued Harvard, alleging the school's admissions process discriminated against Asian-American students. The Justice Department wrote an amicus brief on behalf of Students for Fair Admissions in February 2020. 

Despite the Justice Department's decision in the Yale case—and prior Supreme Court decisions confirming the constitutionality of affirmative action—some legal scholars consider a conservative majority on the Supreme Court a threat to precedents that support race-based admissions processes.