The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of Yale in a lawsuit alleging that the School of Medicine’s practice of sharing admissions decisions with other institutions was an “antitrust conspiracy.” But the case was successfully appealed to the D.C. Circuit this past Tuesday.
According to court documents, Samuel Pierce, a lawyer who was denied admission into Yale’s School of Medicine in 2015, alleges that he was not admitted “because he is a white Republican and because of an antitrust conspiracy between medical schools to share the names of successful applicants.”
The School of Medicine is allowed to share its admissions decisions based on standard Association of American Medical Colleges protocol. Yet, Pierce claims that this right violates antitrust laws, which regulate business conduct in favor of the consumer. Pierce’s suit alleges that sharing the names of students admitted into medical schools puts the consumer, in this case the student, at a disadvantage because students end up getting admitted into fewer institutions and cannot bargain for financial aid packages as a result. He added that knowing students’ admissions status allows institutions to favor minority students and would likely result in increased offers of admissions to people of color.
The United States District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed Pierce’s case, stating that he “lacks antitrust standing.” Still, Pierce’s appeal to the D.C. Circuit will likely go to trial within the next year, according to Pierce.
“It’s certainly a longshot to be granted a court order requiring Yale to admit me, even if I prevail in the appellate case” Pierce said. “But I think for me, it’s mainly trying to fight a policy that I think was enacted in secret.”
Pierce, who is representing himself in the case, is also considering asking the Supreme Court to skip the normal appellate process so that he can seek a decision directly from the nation’s highest court. His suit comes after the Justice Department opened an investigation into whether undergraduate early decision admissions programs employed by some of Yale’s peers violate antitrust law. But according to the United States District Judge Christopher R. Cooper, antitrust laws do not apply to “decisions by academic institutions about which and how many students to admit.”
In an email to the News, Yale spokesman Karen Peart said that Pierce’s allegations concerning the School of Medicine admissions policies “are completely baseless.”
Pierce also claims that the University discriminated against him in the admissions process due to his political leanings. In his interview with the School of Medicine, he commented candidly about his opinions on policies such as the Affordable Care Act. According to Pierce, he “was not admitted to Yale after that.”
The Association of American Medical Colleges, a defendant alongside Yale in the case, expressed its support for the district court’s ruling. According to Geoffrey Young, senior director of student affairs and programs for the association, medical schools share admissions decisions as a means of allocating appropriate facilities for the incoming class.
He added that, unlike graduate programs, medical schools have “limited to no flexibility in class size.”
“To prevent unfilled seats, medical schools closely manage yield projections, including, in some cases, by increasing the number of acceptances made,” Geoffrey said. “The AAMC supports medical schools and applicants during the admissions cycle in a variety of ways, including through yield management tools that help ensure that every seat is filled by a student. We are pleased with the district court’s reaffirmation that admissions decisions are outside the scope of antitrust laws.”
Pierce received his law degree from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2015.
Carly Wanna | firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction, Feb. 4: In a previous version of this story, the News referenced the American Association of Medical Colleges, when in fact, the association is called the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Correction, Feb. 4: In a previous version of this story, the News called the AAMC and Yale plaintiffs, when they are, in fact defendants.