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Trump Administration Plan to Investigate University Affirmative Action Policies Draws Criticism

August 7, 2017

On August 1, the New York Times, Washington Post and other news organizations reported that the Trump Administration is having Justice Department officials plan a new project to investigate and sue universities over affirmative action admissions policies they determine discriminate against white applicants.

The Washington Post reported that the project will be based out of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, which is now looking for lawyers interested in working on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions,” according to a person familiar with an internal announcement in the civil rights division.

The news drew quick criticism from a number of education stakeholders, including Ryan J. Smith, Executive Director of The Education Trust–West, on affirmative action based in Oakland that supports diversity on college campuses. Smith said:

“Increasing diversity at colleges and universities is part of actualizing the American dream. We should be doing more – not less – to reach students who have been historically and traditionally underserved.

“This past November marked the twenty-year anniversary of California’s passage of Proposition 209 which barred affirmative action in the public sector. Unfortunately, despite California’s and the nation’s increasing demographic diversity, Black and Latino students, along with some groups of students within the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community, continue to be underrepresented at California’s public universities. We believe now more than ever it’s important to continue to expand – not limit – diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts on campuses across the country.

“I am disturbed by the news that despite the barriers many students of color still face, the Trump administration appears to be directing resources to fight efforts to increase diversity in the very spaces that nurture our next generation of business and civic leaders. This is a detrimental course to chart on civil rights.

“We applaud and support the institutions that embrace diversity and champion equity on their campuses and through their policies and practices. This work makes us a better state and a better nation. The Education Trust–West will continue to stand with and work with the administrators and student leaders who fight for more supportive, inclusive, and equitable pathways to and through higher education.”

And Dennis Parker, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Racial Justice Program, had this reaction:

“The idea that the Justice Department would sue colleges over their inclusive policies is an affront to fairness and sends a dangerous signal that it will no longer work to protect the most vulnerable. It would mark an alarming shift in direction that threatens the hard-fought progress made by civil rights advocates and the department itself over the past decades. The Supreme Court has made it clear that it is constitutional to appropriately consider race as one of many factors in college admissions. We will be monitoring closely.”

Source:  The Education Trust–West

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