The US Department of Justice sued Yale University on Thursday, accusing the Ivy League school of illegally discriminating against Asian and white applicants in undergraduate admissions.
The lawsuit escalates the Trump administration’s push against affirmative action in admissions to elite universities, after it publicly supported a lawsuit by Asian-American students accusing Harvard University of discriminating against them.
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The Justice Department said Asian-American and white applicants were typically only one-eighth to one-fourth as likely to win admission to Yale as similarly qualified Black applicants.
In a complaint filed in the federal court in New Haven, Connecticut, where Yale is based, the Justice Department said Yale’s practices violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Yale must comply with that law to receive federal funding, which the government said includes more than $630 million annually from the Department of Health and Human Services alone.
Applicants must be “judged by their character, talents, and achievements and not the color of their skin,” Eric Dreiband, an assistant attorney general for civil rights, said in a statement. “To do otherwise is to permit our institutions to foster stereotypes, bitterness, and division.”
Yale had no immediate comment, but has previously denied accusations of discrimination.
The school has 6,057 undergraduates, and typically accepts just 6 percent of applicants for admission.
Thursday’s lawsuit followed a two-year investigation into Yale’s practices, after a complaint by Asian-American groups.
Harvard is awaiting a decision from the federal appeals court in Boston on the constitutionality of its admissions practices.
A federal district judge upheld them last year, saying Harvard had no “workable and available race-neutral alternatives” to build a diverse student body.
The US Supreme Court has allowed race to be used in college admissions to promote diversity in the classroom.
Further challenges to affirmative action are expected to reach the court, where opponents hope the current conservative majority might end the practice.