DOJ accuses Yale of discriminating against Asian American, white applicants

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sshepard/iStockBy ALEXANDER MALLIN and MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of Justice has accused Yale University of illegally discriminating against Asian American and white applicants.

A two-year civil rights investigation, in response to a complaint by Asian American groups, found that race was a factor in hundreds of admissions decisions each year, officials said. It also found Asian American and white applicants have one-tenth to one-fourth the likelihood of admission as African American applicants with similar credentials.

In a letter sent to the university's attorneys, Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, who heads the DOJ's civil rights division, said that the department has "determined that Yale violated, and is continuing to violate, Title VI." Title VI of the 1965 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in programs that receive federal financial assistance. The Supreme Court has ruled that colleges that receive federal funds can consider an applicants' race, along with other factors, but Yale's use of race "is anything but limited," the DOJ said.

"Yale’s use of race at multiple steps of its admissions process results in a multiplied effect of race on an applicant’s likelihood of admission," Dreiband said in the letter.

In a statement, Yale said it "categorically denies" the DOJ's allegation of discrimination, and called the investigation "meritless" and "hasty."

"At Yale, we look at the whole person when selecting whom to admit among the many thousands of highly qualified applicants," the statement said, adding that the Ivy League school takes into account factors such as their "academic achievement, interests, demonstrated leadership, background, success in taking maximum advantage of their secondary school and community resources, and the likelihood that they will contribute to the Yale community and the world."

Yale said that it has been complying with the DOJ's investigation and had not yet provided all the information the department had requested. "Had the Department fully received and fairly weighed this information, it would have concluded that Yale’s practices absolutely comply with decades of Supreme Court precedent," the statement said.

In its letter, the DOJ demanded that Yale stop using race or national origin in its upcoming 2020-2021 admissions cycle. The university could also choose to submit a plan to the DOJ that does consider race or national origin that is "narrowly tailored as required by law," including a date to stop using race in its admissions process. The letter gives Yale until Aug. 27 to comply with the DOJ's demands or risk facing a federal lawsuit.

Yale said it does not plan to change its admissions process.

"We are proud of Yale’s admissions practices, and we will not change them on the basis of such a meritless, hasty accusation," the university said in its statement.

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