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U.S. Justice Department drops lawsuit against Yale alleging discrimination against Asian and white applicants

The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday dropped its discrimination lawsuit against Yale University that had alleged the university was illegally discriminating against Asian American and white applicants.

Trump-era lawsuit argued discrimination based on race and national origin in undergraduate admissions process

Students walk on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Conn., on Oct. 7, 2009. The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday dropped its discrimination lawsuit against the university. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday dropped its discrimination lawsuit against Yale University that had alleged the university was illegally discriminating against Asian American and white applicants.

The Justice Department noted in its filing that it was voluntarily dismissing the action, filed in October under the Trump administration. A judge must still sign off on it.

Federal prosecutors had argued the university violated civil rights laws because it "discriminates based on race and national origin in its undergraduate admissions process, and that race is the determinative factor in hundreds of admissions decisions each year."

Yale said it was "gratified" by the decision to drop the lawsuit challenging its admissions practices.

"We are also pleased that the Justice Department has withdrawn its notice of violation of Title VI and its notice of noncompliance," spokesperson Karen Peart said.

In a statement, a Justice Department spokesperson said it was dropping the lawsuit "in light of all available facts, circumstances and legal developments," and notified Yale on Wednesday that it had also withdrawn its determination letter that the university discriminated based on race and national origin.

But the spokesperson said the department's underlying investigation, aimed at ensuring Yale complies with federal anti-discrimination laws, remains ongoing.

Biden's Justice Department has already worked to undo some of Trump's policies, including "zero tolerance," the immigration policy that was responsible for family separations. Also Wednesday, the Supreme Court agreed to requests from the Biden administration to put off arguments in two challenges to Trump-era policies involving the U.S.-Mexico border wall and asylum-seekers as Biden works to change the policies that had been challenged in court.

The Justice Department's investigation — which stemmed from a 2016 complaint against Yale, Brown and Dartmouth — also found that Yale used race as a factor in multiple steps of the admissions process and that Yale "racially balances its classes."

The Supreme Court has ruled colleges and universities may consider race in admissions decisions but has said that must be done in a narrowly tailored way to promote diversity and should be limited in time. Schools also bear the burden of showing why their consideration of race is appropriate.

Yale has said its practices comply with decades of Supreme Court precedent and that it considers a multitude of factors and looks at "the whole person when selecting whom to admit among the many thousands of highly qualified applicants."

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