16:48, July 05 314 0 abajournal.com

2018-07-05 16:48:05
Rescinding campus diversity policy, Trump administration offers Supreme Court rulings as guidance

The Trump administration said it will abandon a policy that asked schools to consider race in admissions as a way to diversify campuses.

The change rescinds seven Obama administration affirmative action guidelines, the New York Times reports. The U.S. Departments of Justice and Education announced the move in a joint letter.

“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. Schools should continue to offer equal opportunities for all students while abiding by the law,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wrote Tuesday in a statement.

If the Supreme Court considers affirmative action again, whoever replaces Justice Anthony Kennedy could play a pivotal role in determining whether race preferences are outlawed in university admissions. Kennedy in 2016 wrote for the majority in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, which found that a race-conscious admissions program at the school did not violate equal protection provisions.

A recent lawsuit claims that Harvard University depressed the number of Asian-American admittees partly by giving them lower ratings for likability and other personality traits. “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. As the demographics of the country change, it becomes more and more problematic,” Roger Clegg, the president and general counsel of the conservative Center for Equal Opportunity, told the Times.

After the Trump administration’s announcement, some universities said race will continue to be a factor in admissions. Temple University said in a statement that it reviews many characteristics of diversity including race, the Philadelphia Enquirer reports. The University of Texas at Austin told the Texas Tribune that it has no plans to drop its affirmative action policy.

The Association of American Medical Colleges criticized the new guidelines. “Medical student diversity is necessary to prepare physicians to provide care to an increasingly diverse population and to address significant health disparities,” the group said in a statement. “To prepare a physician workforce for these challenges, many medical schools have determined that it is necessary to include the consideration of race and ethnicity, along with many other factors, in the admissions process. Individualized, holistic review of each applicant—carried out under longstanding Supreme Court precedent—leads to a more engaged student body and to higher-performing students.”