DOJ Drops Lawsuit Alleging Discrimination in Yale Admissions

February 3, 2021 Updated: February 4, 2021

In an unexpected move, the Department of Justice (DOJ) gave notice to a federal court on Feb. 3 that it is dropping a discrimination lawsuit it filed only a few months ago.

In a two-sentence notice, DOJ described its decision as a “voluntary dismissal” of the litigation it filed in October 2020 following a two-year investigation.

A DOJ spokesman who asked not to be named told The Epoch Times the decision to withdraw the suit was based on a November 2020 federal court decision that rejected a challenge of Harvard’s admissions policies.

“The department has dismissed its lawsuit in light of all available facts, circumstances, and legal developments, including the November 2020 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit rejecting a challenge to Harvard University’s consideration of race in its admissions practices,” the spokesman said.

“The department has also withdrawn its notice letter finding that Yale’s practices violate Title VI.  The department will further review this matter through its administrative process. The lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice, meaning that neither the United States nor the court has made any final determination in this matter. The department’s underlying investigation to ensure Title VI compliance is ongoing.”

The fact the October 2020 determination of discrimination letter was also withdrawn by DOJ suggests there is little possibility in the near future of further action, either in the court system or through DOJ administrative channels.

Yale issued a written statement to NBC saying, “Our admissions process has allowed Yale College to assemble an unparalleled student body, which is distinguished by its academic excellence and diversity.”

But Yale may not be off the hook just yet because Edward Blum, president of Students for Fair Admissions, issued a statement on Feb. 3 saying, “It is disappointing that the Department of Justice withdrew from this important lawsuit which had exposed Yale’s illegal use of quotas to achieve racial and ethnic proportionality.”

Blum’s group has been a leading opponent in the courts and the media of racial and ethnic favoritism in college admissions. He said in his statement that his group plans “to file a new lawsuit against Yale in the coming days. Discriminatory admissions policies like Yale’s must be challenged in federal court.”

In an August 2020 letter giving Yale notice of the government’s intent to file suit, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband said investigators found systematic favoritism by the Ivy League school that illegally disadvantaged Asian American and white applicants.

“Yale grants substantial, and often determinative, preferences based on race to certain racially-favored applicants and relatively and significantly disfavors other applicants because of their race,” Dreiband stated in the letter.

“Yale’s race discrimination imposes undue and unlawful penalties on racially-disfavored applicants, including in particular Asian American and White applicants.”

The DOJ filed suit on Oct. 9, 2020, against Yale, claiming its admission policies violate Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

“There is no such thing as a nice form of race discrimination,” Dreiband said at the time. “Unlawfully dividing Americans into racial and ethnic blocs fosters stereotypes, bitterness and division.

“It is past time for American institutions to recognize that all people should be treated with decency and respect and without unlawful regard to the color of their skin.”

Opponents of race-based college admissions—referred to as affirmative action programs—have faced a rough road in seeking to persuade federal courts that such actions violate federal anti-discrimination laws and regulations.

The November Harvard decision by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit stated that the school had legally employed affirmative action tools in its admissions policies to achieve a desirable level of diversity in its student body.

“Harvard’s race-conscious admissions program ensures that Harvard can retain the benefits of diversity it has already achieved,” the court stated in a unanimous decision.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1978 in Regents of the University of Southern California v. Bakke that affirmative action in college admissions doesn’t violate the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The case was brought by Allan Bakke, a former U.S. Marine officer who had applied for admission to USC’s medical school.

Bakke won a partial victory because the high court stated that numerical quotas couldn’t be used in admissions. That reservation from the 1978 decision has given opponents of policies such as those currently in force in Ivy League and other top universities hope that the current Supreme Court, with its occasional 6–3 conservative majority would reverse Bakke.

University of Tennessee College of Law Distinguished Professor Glenn Reynolds is a 1985 Yale Law School graduate, a New York Post columnist, and widely published law review author. Asked by The Epoch Times for a comment on the DOJ decision, Reynolds replied that “it’s obvious that not all racial discrimination is created equal.”