Student Group Sues Yale for Discrimination, Revives Trump-Era Case

Biden DOJ dropped investigation into discriminatory admissions processes

Yale students on campus / Getty Images
February 26, 2021

A student group filed suit against Yale University on the grounds that the school discriminated against Asian-American and white applicants, pressuring federal judges to pick up a similar case the Biden administration recently abandoned.

In a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut Thursday, Students for Fair Admissions claims Yale violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which bans federally funded institutions from race-based discrimination.

SFFA pledged to take up the suit after the Justice Department dropped its Trump-era case against Yale on Feb. 3.

The change in presidential administrations has opened a new chapter in affirmative action cases against two of the nation’s most prestigious universities. While President Trump’s Justice Department backed SFFA—the plaintiff in cases against Yale and Harvard University—President Joe Biden’s incoming administration is likely to defend both Ivy Leagues.

The DOJ sued Yale in October after a two-year federal investigation found the school unlawfully used race as a "determinative" factor in their selection process. Racially favored groups, including black and Hispanic applicants, were in some cases eight times as likely to be admitted as their equally qualified Asian peers. 

Yale maintains that its admissions processes are legal and nondiscriminatory, a spokeswoman told the Washington Free Beacon. 

"For decades, Yale has created an academically excellent and diverse student body through admissions policies that comply fully with the decisions of the Supreme Court and that do not discriminate against any racial or ethnic group," Karen Peart, Yale’s director of communications, said. 

SFFA’s lawsuit and Trump Justice Department findings paint a "misleading" picture of the school’s admissions process, according to Peart. 

"The lawsuit that SFFA filed yesterday simply resurrects the misleading statistics, factual errors, and legal misstatements that the Trump administration included in its suit, which the Department of Justice has since withdrawn," Peart said. "Yale remains fully committed to assembling an excellent and diverse student body." 

Yale began using quotas in the 1920s to discriminate and exclude Jewish applicants, SFFA’s complaint notes. It also states Yale used quotas in the 1970s to target favorable minority groups—which at the time included black, Hispanic, and Asian applicants—and that the school excluded Asian Americans from that list in the 1980s. 

SFFA also petitioned the Supreme Court to take up a related case against Harvard University on Thursday. The group alleges that Harvard, like Yale, tinkered with racial demographics and discriminated against Asian Americans while doing so. That case effectively asks the High Court to review the legal basis of affirmative action. 

Edward Blum, president of SFFA, declined the Free Beacon’s request for comment but called admissions processes that favor one minority over another "unnecessary" and "unconstitutional" in a press release. 

"Yale, Harvard ... and many dozens of other highly competitive colleges and universities employ admissions practices that are discriminatory, unnecessary, and unconstitutional," Blum said. "Students applying to undergraduate and postgraduate programs should be judged on their individual talents, character, academic skills, extracurricular achievements and socio-economic background but not the color of their skin."