Trump’s Diversity Fights With Yale, Princeton Are Dropped
(Bloomberg) -- Yale and Princeton no longer have Donald Trump on their case over how they deal with race in admissions and campus life.
President Joe Biden’s Justice Department on Wednesday dropped a Trump administration lawsuit accusing Yale University of discriminating against Whites and Asian Americans while favoring Black and Hispanic applicants for admission. And Princeton University said that the U.S. Department of Education closed an investigation of the school’s diversity initiatives last month while Trump was still in office.
The government sued Yale in October, claiming the Ivy League university was violating federal civil rights law by using an applicant’s racial and ethnic information as “the determinative factor” in hundreds of admissions decisions each year, rather than as one of many considerations, as the Supreme Court has allowed. Yale argued its race-conscious policy follows years of Supreme Court rulings.
Court records indicate the suit was voluntarily dismissed Wednesday at the government’s request. Yale said the Justice Department also dropped its finding that the school was in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in any program or activity that receives federal funds.
The move marks a swift shift in priorities for Biden’s Justice Department, signaling its abandonment of the previous administration’s efforts to reverse college diversity efforts. In addition to the Yale case, the Trump administration had joined a similar suit against Harvard University that was unsuccessful. It also opened an investigation of Princeton in September after the university’s president stated that “racism and the damage it does to people of color nevertheless persist at Princeton as in our society” as part of an announcement of initiatives to diversify the school.
A federal appeals court in Boston said in November that Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policies weren’t discriminatory, and the Justice Department cited that ruling in explaining its decision to drop the Yale case.
“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 First Circuit rejecting a challenge to Harvard University’s consideration of race in its admissions practices,” a Justice Department spokesperson said in a statement.
Yale said it was gratified by the Justice Department’s decision.
Peter Salovey, the university’s president, said in a statement that the admission process relies on looking at the “whole applicant,” including “where applicants come from, what they have accomplished, and what they hope to achieve at Yale and after graduation. In this way, we create an incoming class that is richly diverse -- with invaluable benefits to our students, faculty, and community.”
In the lawsuit, the Trump administration claimed the university had “intentionally subjected applicants to Yale College to discrimination on the grounds of race and national origin” for 50 years, which resulted in the school imposing unlawful penalties upon “racially-disfavored applicants,” particularly White and Asian-American students.
The suit was part of the previous administration’s broader campaign against programs in both the public and private sectors intended to correct historic discrimination against the Black and Hispanic communities. Trump issued an executive order barring federal government agencies and contractors from offering diversity training that he regarded as “un-American” and also launched a government commission aimed at promoting “patriotic” history lessons.
Under Trump, the U.S. Labor Department last year sent letters to Microsoft Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. asking how their efforts to double their ranks of Black leaders complied with laws limiting the consideration of race in employment. The Education Department began a probe of Princeton after the university’s president stated that “racism and the damage it does to people of color nevertheless persist at Princeton as in our society” as part of an announcement of initiatives to diversify the school.
The discrimination suit against Harvard was brought by affirmative-action opponent Edward Blum and his group, Students for Fair Admissions. Last month, U.S. District Judge Charles Haight in Connecticut rejected the group’s bid to join the Yale case, saying the group’s claims mirrored those of the government.
The battle over race-conscious admissions is far from over. After losing the Harvard case in November, Students for Fair Admissions said it would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the ruling and toss out decades of precedent. The high court, which now has a 6-3 conservative majority, has yet to say if it will take up the appeal. Blum’s group also has similar cases pending against the University of Texas and the University of North Carolina alleging discrimination against Asian-American and White students.
Yukong Zhao, president of Asian American Coalition for Education, which has supported Blum’s efforts, said in a statement that he was “shocked” by the DOJ’s decision. The switch shows the Biden administration “has no intention to eliminate true anti-Asian discrimination at the hands of the American establishment,” he said.
Many of the Trump administration’s efforts fell short in the courts. A federal judge in December blocked the former president’s executive order on diversity training.
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