The Justice Department on Wednesday dropped an affirmative action lawsuit the Trump administration had filed against Yale University last year accusing the school of discriminating against Asian American and White applicants in its undergraduate admissions process.
The lawsuit was originally filed in October when the department, led by then-Attorney General William Barr, alleged: “Yale rejects scores of Asian American and white applicants each year based on their race.”
The decision to drop this lawsuit is the latest move by the Biden administration to change its positions in several cases that are pending in federal courts around the country. The new administration also recently asked the Supreme Court to pause arguments in cases involving the US-Mexico border wall and US asylum policy.
The case against Yale came on the heels of a similar case against Harvard University, where an anti-affirmative action group sued the university claiming their admissions practices discriminated against Asian American students. Lower courts ruled Harvard does not discriminate in its admission decisions.
“The department has dismissed its lawsuit in light of all available facts, circumstances, and legal developments, including the November 2020 decision by the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit rejecting a challenge to Harvard University’s consideration of race in its admissions practices,” a DOJ spokesperson said in a statement.
The spokesperson said the department has also “withdrawn its notice letter finding that Yale’s practices violate Title VI” of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving Federal financial assistance.”
“The department’s underlying investigation to ensure Title VI compliance is ongoing,” they added.
The Trump administration brought the Yale lawsuit as part of its push against universities that factor race into admissions decisions, and it came after a two-year civil rights investigation spurred by a complaint by Asian-American groups.
The department said last year that the school’s admissions process is a violation of the Civil Rights Act, and that Yale must stop the use of race or national origin in its upcoming admissions cycle or get signoff on a plan that continues to use it from the department, officials told the school.
The Supreme Court has long upheld campus affirmative action, permitting universities to consider the race of an applicant among many factors, toward the goal of greater campus diversity, and forbidding racial quotas in admissions.
Edward Blum, a conservative anti-affirmative action lawyer and the president of Students for Fair Admissions, said Wednesday that it was “disappointing” that the government withdrew from the case and vowed to launch a new lawsuit against the school.
“Students for Fair Admissions intends to file a new lawsuit against Yale in the coming days. Discriminatory admissions policies like Yale’s must be challenged in federal court,” Blum said in a statement.
Blum’s group is behind the lawsuit targeting Harvard’s admissions policies.
This story has been updated with additional information.