Some experts have criticized the Department of Justice over its recent announcement that Yale University “illegally discriminates” against Asian American and White applicants, claiming that the move must be politically-motivated.
Last Thursday, the federal executive department released a report that accused the Ivy League institution of rejecting “scores of Asian American and white applicants each year based on their race,” in favor of African American, Hispanic and “certain other applicants.”
Yale allegedly violated Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which states that “[n]o person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Because the New Haven, Connecticut university receives “millions of dollars in taxpayer funding,” it is subject to Title VI’s anti-discrimination mandate, as well as associated “contractual assurances” that it had signed.
In light of the findings of its two-year investigation, the Justice Department threatened to file a lawsuit against Yale if it fails to comply with its Title VI obligations by Aug. 27, 2020. The university has since slammed the department’s findings as a “meritless, hasty accusation.”
Subsequently, some critics came forward to slam the Justice Department. Among them was Anurima Bhargava, who served as chief of the Educational Opportunities Section of the Civil Rights Division at the department during Obama’s administration.
“This announcement is pure politics — a signal once again that the Trump administration will take extraordinary steps to protect white privilege and resort to unfounded racial attacks, right on the heels of Kamala Harris, a Black and Asian American woman, joining the top of the Democratic ticket,” Bhargava said, according to NBC News. “The Department of Justice is doing exactly what the courts have cautioned against, which is to lump together students by their racial background, not treat students as individuals and suggest that white and Asian students as a whole are somehow being harmed by Black students generally.”
A federal court rejected similar charges against Harvard University in 2018. The move against Yale is seen as Trump’s latest effort to eliminate affirmative action in higher education.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) currently represent a multiracial group of students in litigation supporting Harvard’s affirmative action policies. Both organizations have expressed readiness to support Yale.
“The Justice Department’s conclusory and politically-motivated accusations against Yale University are yet another wedge this administration has sought to drive between racially and ethnically diverse communities since day one of January 2017,” said David Hinojosa, director of the Educational Opportunities Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Education should be the great equalizer in our country yet for centuries, access to high-quality education was systematically denied to millions of Black families. Yale’s admission policies, which account for various attributes and skills of students, are consistent with more than 40 years of U.S. Supreme Court precedent and more importantly, should be consistent with the vision we all have for an educated and inclusive republic.”
John C. Yang, president and executive director of AAJC, stated: “We have supported affirmative action policies through multiple legal challenges over the years because the evidence is clear that affirmative action benefits all students, including Asian Americans. The DOJ letter provides little data to support its assertions. We are fighting this false narrative in defense of Harvard University students as well. Where you start out in life shouldn’t determine where you end up. All students deserve the chance to share the whole story of who they are and why they should be accepted in their college applications. It’s unfair to force students to leave out vital parts of their story, including Asian American students who have struggled against stereotypes and grappled with racial discrimination that unfairly limit their opportunities in school and in the job market.”
Samuel R. Bagenstos, a professor of law at the University of Michigan — who formerly worked in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division — believes that the findings come strategically in time for the 2020 presidential election.
“What you’re likely to see over the next several months — and even after November, if Trump loses — is a real acceleration of issuing findings, letters, filing lawsuits, and taking other actions that are designed to force a Biden administration to live with the priorities of the Trump administration,” he said, according to the Harvard Crimson.
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