The Trump administration wants colleges to adopt a so-called race-blind (read: racist) approach to college admissions, effectively revoking an Obama administration policy that encouraged schools to consider race in the admissions process as a means of creating more diverse campuses.
From the Wall Street Journal:
The guidelines, issued jointly by the Obama Justice and Education departments, laid out legal recommendations for schools looking to use race as an admissions factor to boost diversity at their schools.
Trump administration officials plan to argue that the documents, published in 2011 and 2016, go beyond Supreme Court precedent on the issue and mislead schools to believe that legal forms of affirmative action are simpler to achieve than what the law allows.
This decision leaves affirmative action on notice, and the timing is notable: The Justice Department is currently investigating whether Harvard University discriminated against prospective Asian-American students during the admissions process.
Additionally, the Supreme Court has narrowly ruled in favor of preserving affirmative action in recent years, most recently with the 2016 case of Abigail Fisher, a white woman who claimed she was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin because she was white. Fisher also cited a university program that admitted several non-white students who ranked in their class’s top 10 percentile for her apparent discrimination. It’s worth noting that while she believed race played into her rejection from UT, her academic performance was reason enough. Fisher’s grades were nothing to call home about given that the school she was applying to was reportedly more competitive to get into than Harvard that year: She had a 3.59 grade point average, and while her 1180 out of 1600 SAT score wasn’t dreadful, it also wasn’t noteworthy by UT’s standards.
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Justice Kennedy authored the 4-3 majority opinion in the Fisher case, stating, “It remains an enduring challenge to our nation’s education system to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity.” Ironically, thanks to Kennedy’s fucked up retirement plans, and the Trump administration already running through a short list of potential replacements, the future of affirmative action hangs in the balance.
According to the New York Times, conservatives are salivating over this fortuitous opportunity to dismantle affirmative action entirely.
The Trump administration’s plan would scrap the existing policies and encourage schools not to consider race at all. The new policy would not have the force of law, but it amounts to the official view of the federal government. School officials who keep their admissions policies intact would do so knowing that they could face a Justice Department investigation or lawsuit, or lose federal funding from the Education Department.
In September 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was prepared to use the Justice Department’s civil rights division to investigate and sue universities over affirmative action policies considered racist against white college applicants. With today’s developments, it’s safe to say that somewhere, right now, Jeff Sessions is smiling. It’s a bad sign of things to come.