Trump Administration to Challenge Colleges' Affirmative Action Policies

Thursday, 03 Aug, 2017

Specifically, as detailed by an internal document obtained by the New York Times, President Donald Trump's administration wants to begin investigating (and possibly suing) colleges across the country whose affirmative action practices prove harmful to white applicants and students. Eight states have banned the implementation of race-based affirmative action, including California and Florida, but in 2016, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of universities considering race to increase diversity at schools in Fisher v. University of Texas. The ruling ensured that college admissions officials could continue to consider race as one among numerous factors in ensuring a diverse student body, the newspaper noted.

"The civil rights laws were deliberately written to protect everyone from discrimination", Roger Clegg, a former civil rights division official under Ronald Reagan, told the Times.

As the Pacific Standard reported, based on the wording of the announcement, it is likely that the new project will be taking a closer look at the impact of college affirmative action admissions programs, which attempt to make up for disadvantages minority students, who receive college degrees at a lower rate, oftentimes face.

Upon the news Tuesday evening, commentators online expressed their disagreement with the Justice Department's upcoming project, asserting that it played into unfounded and debunked ideas held by white Americans that minority groups receive widespread preferential treatment and financial assistance for college because of their race.

Candice Jackson, acting head of the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights, wrote in 2005 that affirmative action policies dismiss "the very real prices paid by individual people who end up injured by affirmative action".

"This is deeply disturbing", she explained to The Times.

Controversial affirmative action policies have recently prompted lawsuits at Harvard University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Texas at Austin.

Dovetailing recent shifts in Justice Department policy related to voting rights, police reforms and gay rights, this project fits into a broader effort by the president and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to restructure the civil rights division as a bulwark, not a vanguard, of progressive change.

Critics include some DOJ staff who refuse to work on the project because it is "contrary to the office's long-running approach to civil rights in education opportunities", The Washington Post reports.

The Justice Department turned down interview requests by The Times to gain more information about the program.

The Department of Justice did not return a request for comment.

Higher education leaders are mindful that for generations, until the civil rights movement, black students were systematically denied admission to leading colleges and universities. Instead using the funds to investigate and sue universities over policies they believe discriminate against white applicants.