Ivy League admissions controversy throws light on Biden administration’s ‘equity’ doctrine

A man walks toward Durfee Hall on the Yale University campus in New Haven, Conn., on June 12, 2015. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Craig Warga

There was an uproar from groups that have been opposing the admissions policies of higher education institutions as soon as the Justice Department in the new Biden Administration dropped a lawsuit against Yale University Feb. 3, which had charged the Ivy League institution of discriminating against Asian-American, including Indian-American, and White applicants.

The Justice Department under the Trump administration had brought the lawsuit against Yale after receiving submissions from various groups opposed to weightage being given to race during the admissions process, in effect opposing affirmative action.

The Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal blasted the Biden administration, accusing it of replacing ‘equal treatment,’ an idea embedded in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, with notions of ‘equity’.


“The Biden Administration has signaled in promoting “equity” that it has abandoned fair and equal treatment. This will lead to further social division and resentment, as it has in every society that has practiced favoritism by race. The resulting injustice and confusion will continue until the Supreme Court stops ducking the issue and rules against racial favoritism once and for all,” the WSJ Editorial Board asserted.

Meanwhile, Yale President Peter Salovey in a letter to the university community Feb. 3, called it welcome news that the Justice Department had dropped the lawsuit that the Trump administration had pursued since last October “Even though Yale had cooperated with the department and provided data and facts to correct these misconceptions…”

The Justice Department issued a ‘notice of voluntary dismissal’ which it filed in Federal District Court in Connecticut, Yale’s home state, Feb. 3. The lawsuit was dismissed “in light of all available facts, circumstances and legal developments” the New York Times reported.

Students for Fair Admissions, which has filed lawsuits against a number of universities alleging discrimination based on race in admissions, announced it was filing a new lawsuit against Yale now that the Justice Department had washed its hands off an issue that had been taken up during the Trump administration under Attorney General Bill Barr. Barr also took up a similar case against Harvard which may be dismissed like the Yale one, based on the Biden administration’s support for affirmative action.

Student at Yale University walks past a wall of posters displaying diverse ethnicities. Photo: Reuters

“It is disappointing that the Department of Justice withdrew from this important lawsuit which had exposed Yale’s illegal use of quotas to achieve racial and ethnic proportionality,” Edward Blum, president of Students for Fair Admissions, is quoted saying in a press release.

In an interview with News India Times, Blum said, “We do have students who have been rejected by Harvard and University of North Carolina, and Yale, who are Indian-American. Indian-Americans are a significant part of our membership and a significant part of our students who have been rejected by these universities.”

In its press release, the SFFA said it was important for the lawsuit to be vigorously litigated through the courts in the coming months and years.

“Using race and ethnicity in college admissions decisions is unfair, unconstitutional and is fraying the social fabric that holds our nation together. As a recent Pew Research survey reveals, 73% of Americans believe race must never be a factor in college admissions.” Blum went on to say.

In the six-year long battle against admissions policies of top universities led by Students for Fair Admissions, SFFA, against various higher education institutions, this non-profit has counted among its supporters, several Indian-American organizations and students.

The SFFA claims a membership of 24,000 students, parents, and others “who believe that racial classifications and preferences in college admissions are unfair, unnecessary, and unconstitutional.” The organization is currently litigating admissions policies at Harvard, the Univ. of North Carolina and the Univ. of Texas.

The SFFA declares its mission is “to support and participate in litigation that will restore the original principles of our nation’s civil rights movement: A student’s race and ethnicity should not be factors that either harm or help that student to gain admission to a competitive university.”

Indian-American supporters of the SFFA lawsuits along with groups from other communities, especially Chinese-Americans, claim that students of Asian-American and White descent are held to a higher standard when evaluating their test scores and their life experiences during the admissions process.

The SFFA lawsuit against Harvard was joined by four Indian-American organizations including the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), National Federation of Indian American Associations, American Society of Engineers of Indian Origin, and BIT Sindri Alumni Association of North India, reported Indo Asian News Service Nov. 13, 2020.

“Yes, we were part of the Asian American Coalition for Education in Harvard Case and the Indian Americans students would like to see equal opportunity with students of other races, period,” Thomas Abraham, PhD, chairman of GOPIO told News India Times. “We have no problem, if African and Hispanic students are given due considerations to increase their admission rate, however, in the open competition, all races should be treated equally,” Abraham added.

The Asian American Coalition for Education, AACE, which says it is composed of 64 Asian-American organizations, in its statement, said it “strongly denounces the Federal Government’s egregious attack on equal education right for all American students, especially Asian-American students.”

According to AACE’s analysis, “After extracurricular activities and other factors are adjusted, an Asian-American applicant has to score on average 140, 270 and 450 points higher than a white student, a Hispanic student and a black student on the SAT, respectively, in order to enjoy the same chances of admissions.”

As far back as May 2016, the AACE had filed a civil rights complaint on behalf of 132 Asian-American organizations where it said it had shown “compelling evidence” that Yale and other selective U.S. colleges “have applied de facto racial quotas, racial stereotypes and higher admissions standards to discriminate against Asian American applicants.”

In scathing remarks about the Biden Justice Department’s Feb. 3 decision, AACE said, the “baseless dismissal of the lawsuit showcases its (DOJ) “unwillingness to protect Asian-American children against blatant and widespread discrimination.”

“The Administration’s refusal to defend equality and merit in college admissions will unequivocally harm Asian-American students,” AACE contended.

“I am totally shocked by the Biden DOJ’s hasty decision to drop the Yale lawsuit, only eight days after President Biden signed an executive order claiming to combat anti-Asian discrimination,” AACE President Yukong Zhao is quoted saying in the press release.



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