World

Trump administration to reverse guidance on use of race in college admissions

Trump administration to reverse guidance on use of race in college admissions

The policies were introduced by Mr Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, and outlined legal recommendations for institutions looking to consider race in applications as a way to boost diversity on campuses.

This will switch the country back to a policy instituted by the administration of president George W Bush to educational institutions to strongly adhere to race-neutral standards.

While the Supreme Court has affirmed the practice of affirmative action a few times, the issue could be revisited if Trump's Supreme Court nominee views the practice differently than his predecessor, Justice Anthony Kennedy.

"Once again, the Trump administration works to create confusion where none exists, needlessly muddying civil rights practices in schools", Catherine Lhamon, assistant education secretary for civil rights under Obama, said in an email.

And in November, Sessions asked the Department of Justice to look into affirmative action policies that he thinks are unconstitutional.

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

"People have been talking about precedent in regard to Roe. v. Wade" - the landmark 1973 ruling affirming a woman's right to abortion - "but it's important to remember that affirmative action has been a precedent for the past 40 years", she said.

The move fits into a broader context of Trump administration reversals of a number of Obama-era education policies and regulations.

"This is a triumphant moment for Asian American communities", the AACE said, adding this timely update signifies a culmination of much-needed government actions to revamp misguided policies that facilitated widespread abuses of race-based affirmative action in higher education.

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

The Republican Trump administration's move is being viewed by Democrats and liberals as a way to weaken affirmative action. It was one of the largest joint actions ever taken by Asian-American organisations in pursuit of equal education rights.

The Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities, which includes Washington State University, also criticized the moving, saying in a statement: "Four decades of case law make clear that race and ethnicity can be one of many factors that universities can consider during the admissions process".

"The Supreme Court has determined what affirmative action policies are Constitutional, and the Court's written decisions are the best guide for navigating this complex issue".

Revoking the Obama-era guidance on affirmative action could affect elementary and secondary schools that have grappled with racial imbalances.

Rachel Kleinman, senior counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said withdrawing the guidance could deter districts from implementing policies to increase diversity. The new case, particularly with the recent retirement announcement of Justice Kennedy, puts that ruling in danger. These guidances were not talking about court-ordered desegregation or something like that.


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