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Trump administration cuts Obama-era guidelines for campus diversity

05 July 2018

The high court has said race-conscious admissions are permissible when schools also take into account other factors in an applicant's background.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the move.

When an institution is taking an individual student's race into account in an admissions or selection process, it should conduct an individualized, holistic review of all applicants. That decision was authored by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement last week.

But Barack Obama's administration, in 2011 and 2016, issued recommendations that encouraged schools to think of diversity as a compelling state interest and to embrace race-based admissions as a tool to achieve it.

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"Institutions are not required to implement race-neutral approaches if, in their judgment, the approaches would be unworkable", the document said. We have a Supreme Court that in recent years has been active in giving directives and direction to colleges and universities about what they can or cannot do.

That will offer the Trump administration an opportunity to pick a judge who favors race-blind admissions policies, experts said. Colleges could potentially use the new Trump revisions to help defend themselves against lawsuits over their admission policies, however.

The Trump administration's Justice Department had already signaled concern about the use of race in admissions decisions.

The expected reversal comes as the U.S. Justice Department considers a case about whether Harvard University is illegally discriminating against Asian-American students by limiting the number it accepts.

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Anurima Bhargava: They were put together to explain how schools, colleges, and universities could promote diversity and address segregation and racial isolation in ways that were consistent with the existing law.

The Trump administration "could just be rescinding the Obama-era polices", Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, told Fox News.

The Justice Department under Republican President Donald Trump has been investigating a complaint by more than 60 Asian-American organizations that say Harvard University's policies are discriminatory because they limit the acceptance of Asian-Americans. The Education Department's action forecasts how much is at stake in the upcoming Supreme Court nomination process. "It is more evidence that the Trump administration is skeptical about race-based decision-making in admissions and in other contexts".

None of the three directives have any legal bearing on what colleges and universities may or may not choose to do with regards to affirmative action in admissions. The Supreme Court has weighed the issue of affirmative action several times, most recently reaffirming it in 2016 but leaving an opening for future legal challenges. Justice Antonin Scalia died after the court heard arguments in the case but before the decision was handed down.

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Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit opposed to affirmative action, said in a study that Harvard routinely assigns lower scores to Asian students in subjective rating categories meant to measure attributes such as likability, courage and kindness, putting them at a major disadvantage compared with white students. "This is a clear attack on precedent".

Trump administration cuts Obama-era guidelines for campus diversity