New Study on Costs of Racial Preferences as DOJ Drops Yale Suit

    The campus of Yale University (Michelle McLoughlin/Reuters)

    In an unfortunate but expected move on February 3, the U.S. Department of Justice dismissed its lawsuit against Yale University. The lawsuit, filed on October 8, 2020, accused Yale of illegally discriminating against undergraduate applicants to the university based on race and national origin. The two-sentence court filing by the DOJ does nothing to counter the case it made last year that the school unlawfully discriminates in favor of black and Hispanic applicants and against white and Asian applicants. The Biden Justice Department’s move this week is especially ironic given, just a few days prior, the issuance of the presidential “Memorandum Condemning and Combating Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.”

    As readers of this blog are likely aware, the use of racial preferences has been condemned for many reasons and for many years. One devastating reason that is getting renewed attention via a new study released by the Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO), for which I serve as president and general counsel, is that this practice ultimately harms most those whom the practice is intended to help.

    CEO senior research fellow, Althea Nagai, lays out in the study troubling findings about how otherwise bright and energetic applicants, especially in the STEM fields, who become academically mismatched “disproportionately drop out of STEM, change to non-STEM majors, transfer to other schools, and take longer to graduate.” Because some minority applicants with weaker academic credentials are given massive preference based on their race — some as much as 19.77 to 1 for black applicants over white at the College of William and Mary — they struggle to keep pace academically and to cope psychologically after matriculation. Nagai goes into great detail about how the costs of promoting diversity through racial preferences also flow to “non-minority students and faculty” as well because of their “unhappiness with students’ preparedness” and “the [diminished] quality of the education provided,” among other factors. With yet more evidence of this kind, here’s hoping that the Biden DOJ, and the Supreme Court, finally seriously consider not just the purported benefits of racial preferences but also the undeniable and severe costs.

    Devon Westhill is president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO). Immediately prior to his selection as president and general counsel of CEO, Westhill served as the top civil rights official at the United States Department of Agriculture. Westhill’s career includes a separate presidential appointment, stints in all three branches of government and the United States Navy, and work in both private law practice and the nonprofit sector.

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