Trump Administration Reverses Obama on Affirmative Action

Source: New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration will encourage the nation’s school superintendents and college presidents to adopt race-blind admissions standards, abandoning an Obama administration policy that called on universities to consider race as a factor in diversifying their campuses, Trump administration officials said.

Last November, Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked the Justice Department to re-evaluate past policies that he believed pushed the department to act beyond what the law, the Constitution and the Supreme Court had required, Devin M. O’Malley, a Justice Department spokesman said. As part of that process, the Justice Department rescinded seven policy guidances from the Education Department’s civil rights division on Tuesday.

“The executive branch cannot circumvent Congress or the courts by creating guidance that goes beyond the law and — in some instances — stays on the books for decades,” Mr. O’Malley said.

The Supreme Court has steadily narrowed the ways that schools can consider race when trying to diversify their student bodies. But it has not banned the practice.

Now, affirmative action is at a crossroads. The Trump administration is moving against any use of race as a measurement of diversity in education. And the retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy at the end of this month will leave the court without its swing vote on affirmative action and allow President Trump to nominate a justice opposed to a policy that for decades has tried to integrate elite educational institutions.

A highly anticipated case is pitting Harvard against Asian-American students who say one of the nation’s most prestigious institutions has systematically excluded some Asian-American applicants to maintain slots for students of other races. That case is clearly aimed at the Supreme Court.

“The whole issue of using race in education is being looked at with a new eye in light of the fact that it’s not just white students being discriminated against, but Asians and others as well,” said Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the conservative Center for Equal Opportunity. “As the demographics of the country change, it becomes more and more problematic.”

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