The Trump administration will encourage schools to implement race-blind admissions policies, a reversal from an Obama-era guidance. Under the Obama Administration, the Education Department’s civil rights division issued seven guidance documents urging schools to consider race during admissions when attempting to diversify student bodies. The Justice Department plans to scrap these guidance efforts.
The Obama-era guidance advised schools on how to adopt affirmative action policies that could survive potential legal challenges. The guidance documents were issued with the belief that diversity in schools enhanced an educational environment.
Justice Anthony Kennedy acted as the swing vote on the Supreme Court in upholding affirmative action in college admissions, including the decision in Fisher v. University of Texas, which reaffirmed that campus diversity is a compelling state interest. Kennedy’s retirement could allow the Court to take a more conservative stance on college admissions in future cases.
A pending lawsuit against Harvard’s admissions policies may give the soon-to-be conservative Supreme Court an opportunity to further limit affirmative action. The plaintiff argues that Harvard’s admissions policies systematically exclude Asian-Americans so Harvard can admit students of other races.
Last August, the Trump administration directed the Justice Department to investigate and sue universities “discriminating against white people” through affirmative action policies.
“Trump administration’s Department of Justice seeking lawyers to investigate and sue colleges for so-called reverse racism against white students is shameful race-baiting politics at its worse,” Eleanor Smeal, President of Feminist Majority said in a statement last summer. “The decision would show a complete lack of understanding of both the history of racial oppression in our country and the need for diversity in our nation’s colleges and universities. The problem is not affirmative action, but rather the gross under-representation of African American and Latinx students at many institutions of higher education.”
Media Resources: Politico 7/3/18; New York Times 7/3/18; Feminist Newswire 8/2/17