Students walk on the Yale University campus in New Haven, Connecticut.
Shannon Stapleton | Reuters
The Justice Department on Wednesday dropped a case against Yale University alleging the Ivy League institution discriminated against white and Asian applicants in its admissions process.
The decision, announced in a filing with the Connecticut Federal District Court, marks a reversal of the stance of the Justice Department under former President Donald Trump, whose administration opposed educational policies that were geared towards increasing racial diversity. President Joe Biden had made racial justice a top priority in his administration.
Yale had denied allegations that its licensing practices were discriminatory. In a statement, spokeswoman Karen Peart said the school was “satisfied” with the DOJ’s decision.
“Our admissions process has enabled Yale College to bring together an unprecedented student body characterized by academic excellence and diversity,” said Peart.
The Trump Justice Department targeted higher education institutions for admissions practices that took into account applicants’ race and country of origin.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld racial licensing practices, despite setting limits on how important a factor racing can be.
The Justice Department announced in August that a two-year investigation found that Yale’s practices were unlawful.
“Although the Supreme Court ruled that colleges receiving federal funding may consider the race of applicants to be one of several factors in certain circumstances, the Justice Department found that Yale’s use of the breed is far from limited,” the DOJ said in a press release at the time.
The department said Yale used the race “in several steps of its eligibility process, resulting in a multiplied effect of the race on an applicant’s likelihood of eligibility, and Yale racially equalizes its classes.”
Including racing in admissions processes is common among US universities, but remains controversial.
In November, the U.S. First Appeals Court dismissed a separate lawsuit challenging Harvard University’s use of the breed in admissions because the school discriminated against Asians.
The Justice Department sided with Students for Fair Admissions, the group behind the lawsuit, in one case brought by the court.
Edward Blum, the Conservative strategist who founded Students for Fair Admissions, said it was likely his faction would appeal to the Supreme Court, where a new Conservative majority of 6-3 is more suited to positive action than previous courts.
In recent years, the Supreme Court’s challenges to positive action have been fiercely fought.
The last time the Supreme Court reviewed the practice in 2016, it narrowly upheld it as it was being used at the University of Texas at Austin. The court ruling on this case was 4-3 and was drafted by Judge Anthony Kennedy, a frequent swing vote.
Since the decision known as Fisher v University of Texas was made, Kennedy has retired and Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, also in the majority, has died. In addition, three other Conservative judges have joined the bank, making it more likely that the court could rule against positive action in the future.
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