Trump to Scrap Obama-Era Race Guidelines in College Admissions

Frederick Owens
July 4, 2018

The guidelines - put in place during the Obama administration in 2011 and 2016 - laid out legal recommendations that Trump officials argue "mislead schools to believe that legal forms of affirmative action are simpler to achieve than the law allows", the paper reported.

The Trump administration's plan would scrap the existing policies and encourage schools not to consider race at all.

While the decision does not change current USA law on affirmative action, it provides a strong illustration of the administration's position on an issue that could take on renewed attention with the departure of Justice Anthony Kennedy from the Supreme Court.

RomanBabakin via Getty Images Harvard University is accused of discriminating against Asian-American applicants by conservative advocate Edward Blum.

As the Times notes, "School officials who keep their admissions policies intact would do so knowing that they could face a Justice Department investigation or lawsuit, or lose federal funding from the Education Department". The Education Department's action forecasts how much is at stake in the upcoming Supreme Court nomination process.

"The Trump administration isn't just willfully blind to the reality of systemic racism - it's coldly indifferent to its destructive consequences, and it's absolutely committed to dismantling any efforts to address our nation's original sin", Democratic National Committe Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement. The guidelines that will be eliminated called for colleges to seek ways to promote racial diversity without being discriminatory in their admissions. One was a 2016 ruling that upheld race-conscious college admissions in the interest of assembling a diverse class.

Students protest in support of affirmative action, outside the Supreme Court during the hearing of "Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action" on October 15, 2013 in Washington, DC.

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The Trump administration's move does not change the law on affirmative action. "We still have all of the Supreme Court rulings that would influence how we handle this".

Two sources told the Wall Street Journal that the move comes as the Justice Department investigates whether Harvard University illegally holds Asian-Americans to a higher standard in the admissions process.

The department, for instance, sided this year with Asian-American plaintiffs who contend in a lawsuit against Harvard that the school unlawfully limits how many Asian students are admitted. The high court has said race-conscious admissions are permissible when schools also take into account other factors in an applicant's background.

McDonough said the action could have a chilling effect on colleges as they review their admission methods.

"As the Supreme Court has recognized", one of the documents states, "diversity has benefits for all students, and today's students must be prepared to succeed in a diverse society and an increasingly global workforce".

Ultimately, it should not come as a surprise that the Trump administration would rescind these guidelines, said Tomiko Brown-Nagin, the dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard and a constitutional law expert.

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