Trump Officials Reverse Obama's Policy on Affirmative Action in Schools

Larry Hoffman
July 5, 2018

The departments of Justice and Education announced on Tuesday that they have retracted several letters and memos that advised schools on how they could legally consider race in admissions and other decisions.

The new Trump policies are "good news", Clegg told Breitbart News in an interview June 3.

Peter McDonough, vice president and general counsel of the American Council on Education, which represents college and university presidents, said he doubted schools would change admission policies based exclusively on Tuesday's announcement.

The court's most recent significant ruling on the subject endorsed colleges' use of race among many factors in the admission process.

The new policy would depart from the stance taken by the Obama administration, which in a 2011 policy document said schools have a "compelling interest" in ensuring a diverse student body.

Having Obama guidelines on the books that support the use of race to diversify campuses when the Trump administration feels differently would be awkward, he said.

"Institutions are not required to implement race-neutral approaches if, in their judgment, the approaches would be unworkable", the guidance said.

"By encouraging schools to not consider race during the admissions process or potentially in any other circumstance, President Trump is undermining the benefits of diversity in schools and accelerating the socio-economic divide", NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said in a statement.

That will offer the Trump administration an opportunity to pick a judge who favors race-blind admissions policies, experts said.

The Education and Justice departments pulled seven Obama-era guidances that laid out how schools could voluntarily promote diversity through admissions and school assignment.

Though such guidance doesn't have the force of law, schools could presumably use it to defend themselves against lawsuits over admission policies.

"I personally feel attacked", Fields said. "We still have all of the Supreme Court rulings that would influence how we handle this".

The administration's decision to rescind Obama-era guidelines will not change Northeastern's practice of using race as a consideration in admissions, Armini said.

In 2016, the Supreme Court upheld the right of colleges and universities to use diversity in their admissions criteria.

That lawsuit, first filed in late 2014 by conservative advocate Edward Blum, who is white, is expected to go to trial in October.

Anurima Bhargava, who headed civil rights enforcement in schools for the Justice Department under President Barack Obama and co-authored the Obama-era guidance, said that the policy withdrawal was timed for brief filings in the Harvard litigation, due at the end of the month. By suggesting to public schools, as well as recipients of federal funding, that they take action or refrain from taking action beyond plain legal requirements, the documents are inconsistent with governing principles for agency guidance documents.

In August, the Justice Department moved to reallocate resources in an effort to sue colleges and universities over affirmative action policies.

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