The Trump administration plans to toss an Obama-era guideline that encourages colleges and universities to consider race as a way of promoting diversity.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is reversing 2011 and 2016 legal guidelines set during the Obama administration to “avoid racial isolation” as administration officials contend the guidelines “mislead schools to believe that legal forms of affirmative action are simpler to achieve than the law allows,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
The new plan, according the New York Times, would remove the existing policies and encourage schools not to consider race in the admissions process.
“The executive branch cannot circumvent Congress or the courts by creating guidance that goes beyond the law and — in some instances — stays on the books for decades,” Justice Department spokesperson Devin O’Malley told CNN in a statement.
O’Malley said U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III’s review of the guidance documents found that they “go beyond or are inconsistent with the Constitution and federal law.”
The decision to reverse the guidelines does not change the current U.S. law on affirmative action. It has been 40 years since the Supreme Court held in California v. Bakke that considering race in college admissions was constitutional if race was not the only deciding factor, but one of several factors in their decision.
With reversing the Obama-era guidelines, the Trump administration is clearly showcasing its position on the subject, which comes less than a week after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court.
This also comes three months after the Department of Justice showed its support for Asian American students who filed a lawsuit against Harvard University for “racial balancing” in capping the number of Asian American students it admits each year. Evidence gathered by Students for Fair Admissions is said to show the unjust selection process that the Harvard Admissions office abides by.
The focus of the investigation is concentrated on how the admissions team evaluates applicants based on race, similar to students of Asian American being discriminated against by Harvard University.
The Trump administration is arguing that to hold a certain ethnic group to a higher standard violates the Supreme Court’s precedent on affirmative action.
This is not the only black mark on Harvard’s admissions policies. Last month a lawsuit was filed in federal court claiming that Harvard uses a system that ranks Asian American applicants’ personality traits lower than any other race.
One of the most recent cases on affirmative action regarding higher education was decided two years ago when the University of Texas at Austin was under fire for admissions discrimination.
The court held that using affirmative action in its admissions decisions was constitutional; however, Justice Kennedy noted in his opinion that the University must evaluate changing circumstances to make sure that “race plays no greater role than is necessary to meet its compelling interest.”
Trump’s efforts to rescind the Obama-era guidelines just add to the trend to erase landmark accomplishments of Obama’s legacy and change the landscape of higher education. Since he has taken office, the president has led the assault against Title IX, a gender discrimination statute. Weeks after taking office, Trump’s new DOJ reversed two policy documents related to the enforcement of Title IX.