Published: Wed, July 04, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

White House to Ditch Obama Affirmative Action Guidelines

White House to Ditch Obama Affirmative Action Guidelines

Having Obama guidelines on the books that support the use of race to diversify campuses when the Trump administration feels differently would be awkward, he said.

Mr Trump's government is now encouraging university officials to adopt "race-blind" admissions standards instead, echoing the policies in place during the Bush administration.

But the policy shift enacted by the Trump administration and the retirement of key swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy at the end of this month - with his replacement likely far more conservative - spell trouble for affirmative action.

"It's so much harder to get into Harvard and other selective institutions if you are Asian than if you are white - which is much harder if you are Hispanic or black", Ilya Shapiro with the Cato Institute said.

Anurima Bargava, who led civil rights enforcement in schools for the Justice Department during Obama's presidency, disagreed with that assessment, saying the documents simply offered guidelines to schools looking to continue using affirmative action legally. Such guidance does not have the force of law, but schools could use it to help defend themselves against lawsuits over their admission policies. "This most recent decision by the Department of Education is wholly consistent with the administration's unwavering hostility towards diversity in our schools". Education secretary Betsy DeVos has also recently delayed the implementation of an Obama-era rule meant to address the disparities in the treatment of students of color with disabilities. "But it could also change how past Supreme Court decisions are interpreted and say that schools can't rely just on race and need to present other ways of achieving their diversity goals".

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A group of Asian-Americans on Wednesday welcomed the Trump Administration's move to rescind the Obama-era policy guidelines which encouraged schools, colleges and institutes of higher education to use race and ethnicity as a factor in the admissions. However, the action does suggest that the federal government will be more willing to investigate complaints by applicants that they were denied entrance to a particular college due to their race, experts said.

Opponents of affirmative action said they were heartened by the Trump administration's move.

"This is not a change in the law, this is not congressional action or a ruling from the Supreme Court", he said. In 2007, the high court sharply limited how school districts could use race in enrollment.The ruling struck down race-based policies in Seattle and Louisville.

Many have not shied away from expressing their deep disappointment over the Trump administration's Tuesday decision.

The guidance that will be reversed Tuesday provided examples of different educational contexts within which institutions could permissibly consider race. Harvard, meanwhile, said it would continue considering race as an admissions factor to create a "diverse campus community where students from all walks of life have the opportunity to learn with and from each other". The guidelines were among 24 policy documents revoked yesterday by the Justice Department for being "unnecessary, outdated, inconsistent with existing law, or otherwise improper".

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