Trump administration reverses Obama-era guidance on affirmative action

Trump administration reverses Obama-era guidance on affirmative action

The guidelines, meant to promote diversity, laid out legal recommendations that Trump officials argue go beyond Supreme Court precedent and "mislead schools to believe that legal forms of affirmative action are simpler to achieve than the law allows", The Wall Street Journal reported.

Tuesday's action does not forbid using race as a plus factor in admissions, a practice the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld, most recently in a 2016 decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Anurima Bhargava, who headed civil rights enforcement in schools for the Justice Department under President Barack Obama and helped write that administration's guidance, said the withdrawal of the guidelines was timed for brief filings in the Harvard litigation, due at the end of the month.

"In the Trump administration, we are restoring the rule of law", Sessions said in a statement. The Harvard University case is widely expected to reach the Supreme Court, and the Democrats are concerned that Kennedy's replacement will prove more hostile to race-based programs like affirmative action.

The Justice and Education Departments are rescinding Obama-era policies that advocate the use of race in college admissions.

Mr. Arcidiacono found that an otherwise identical applicant bearing an Asian-American male identity with a 25 percent chance of admission would have a 32 percent chance of admission if he were white, a 77 percent chance of admission if he were Hispanic, and a 95 percent chance of admission if he were black.

Vanita Gupta, who led Justice's civil rights division under Democrat Obama, criticized the decision.

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MJ: How does this action compare to what other Republican administrations have done in the past?

Peter McDonough, vice president and general counsel of the American Council on Education, which represents college and university presidents, said he doubted schools would change their admission policies based exclusively on the announcement.

"This is not a change in the law, this is not congressional action or a ruling from the Supreme Court", he said.

The withdrawal of the Obama-era guidance constitutes a return to the George W. Bush-era policy discouraging affirmative action programs and instead encouraging the use of race-neutral alternatives, like percentage plans and economic diversity programs. If you're going to use race, it has to be one of many factors, part of a holistic review of a student's application.

The new affirmative action guidance could add to an already contentious fight over the next justice.

"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".

The new guidance will not have the force of law, but schools will presumably be able to defend themselves from lawsuits by following administration policy. That guidance also cautioned school officials that they should be careful when using race and that they could do so only in limited circumstances. A Justice Department spokesman said an announcement was imminent.

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