Last week, I reported that the Department of Justice has sued Yale University for discriminating against Whites and Asian-Americans in undergraduate admissions. Today, I want to look more specifically at what the DOJ’s complaint alleges.
At the outset, it’s worth noting the differences between the DOJ’s race discrimination suit against Yale and the race discrimination suit brought by private plaintiffs against Harvard. My sense is that the Harvard case was brought with Justice Kennedy in mind. At the time, he was the swing vote on the Supreme Court in racial preference cases. Thus, it would make sense if the plaintiffs shaped their case with him in mind.
That might explain why the plaintiffs focused on discrimination against Asian-Americans and did not allege discrimination against Whites, even though Harvard undoubtedly discriminates against them. It might also help explain why the plaintiffs emphasized the way Harvard used subjective ratings of “personal qualities” to ding Asian applicants. This evidence seemed likely to offend Justice Kennedy (as well it should).
Kennedy is no longer on the Court, so there is no need to cater to him. The Justice Department alleges discrimination not just against Asians, but also against Whites. And its complaint, after describing how Yale instructs its admissions officers to treat certain minority statuses as a plus at each stage of the admissions process, focuses on the cold numbers to prove that Yale engages in “racial balancing” of its admitted classes.
According to the complaint:
Each year for 18 consecutive years, from 2000 to 2017, data on domestic applicants and admits. . .show that the percentage of Black and Hispanic applicants admitted to Yale College was higher than the percentage of Black and Hispanic applicants to Yale College.
Each year for 18 consecutive years, from 2000 to 2017, data on domestic applicants and admits. . .show that the percentage of Asian applicants admitted to Yale College was lower than the percentage of Asian applicants to Yale College.
From 2010 through 2017, Yale engaged in racial balancing of domestic admits by keeping the annual percentage of Black admits within approximately one percentage point of the previous year’s admitted class. . . .
From 2010 through 2017, Yale engaged in racial balancing of domestic admits by keeping the annual percentage of Asian admits within approximately 1.5 percentage points of the previous year’s admitted class. . .Indeed, in most years the range was only one percentage point or less.
Most successful applicants to Yale College receive a rating of a 2 or 2+ on the “first reading” of their application. First readers are instructed to take race and ethnicity into account in assigning a score. Thus, Yale uses race significantly when it determines who will receive a rating of 2 or 2+.
Having already granted Black and Latino applicants an advantage, Yale then uses race significantly to determine whether to extend offers to applicants who have been rated 2 or 2+. The admit rates of Asian and White applicants with an overall rating of 2 are significantly lower than the admit rates of Black and Latino Hispanic applicants with an overall rating of 2. Similar differences exist for applicants with a 2+ rating.
Yale also uses an academic index in deciding whom to admit. The complaint analyzes, by race, how applicants in the different deciles of the academic index fare in the admissions process. (By way of illustration, the tenth decile includes applicants to Yale with approximately the top 10 percent of academic index ratings, i.e., greater than the academic index ratings of approximately 90 percent. The first decile includes applicants in the bottom ten percent.)
According to the complaint, which is based on the DOJ’s lengthy investigation of Yale’s undergraduate admissions process, Blacks in the tenth decile (the top one) are admitted to Yale at a rate of 60 percent. By contrast, Whites are admitted at a rate of 20 percent and Asians at a rate of only 14 percent.
Because Yale is a highly selective college, few applicants of any race or ethnicity are admitted from the third decile or below. However, in the fourth decile (the top 30 to 40 percent of applicants), Blacks are admitted at a rate of 12 percent — about the same rate at which Asians in the very top decile are admitted. The admission rates for Whites and Asians in the fourth decile are just 2 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively.
In the fifth decile (the top 40 to 50 percent), Blacks are admitted at a rate of 21 percent — about the same rate as Whites in the very top decile. For Whites and Asians in the fifth decile, the admission rates are just 4 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively.
The pattern is the same in all ten deciles.
The Justice Department’s allegations present a compelling case that for the last few decades, Yale has intentionally discriminated on the basis of race and national origin in determining admissions to its college. Because the case falls within the jurisdiction of the Second Circuit, and given the likely composition of the Supreme Court (assuming no court packing), the chances of success are excellent.
However, if Joe Biden is elected president, the DOJ surely will drop the case. In that event, Yale will continue to discriminate on the basis of race indefinitely, unless private plaintiffs intervene.
This is yet another reason to rally around the cause of reelecting President Trump. And it’s another reason to view with disdain conservatives who don’t back Trump’s reelection.