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Trump admin reverses Obama, prods schools to ignore racial factors in admissions

05 July 2018

The Trump administration is rescinding Obama-era guidance that encouraged schools to take a student's race into account in order to promote diversity in admissions, a USA official said Tuesday.

The guidelines, meant to promote diversity, laid out legal recommendations that Trump officials argue go beyond Supreme Court precedent and "mislead schools to believe that legal forms of affirmative action are simpler to achieve than the law allows", The Wall Street Journal reported.

The supreme court narrowly upheld the premise of race-based admissions 4-3 in the 2016 case of Fisher v Texas, but the decision is now vulnerable to being overturned with the impending retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.

"We condemn the Department of Education's politically motivated attack on affirmative action and deliberate attempt to discourage colleges and universities from pursuing racial diversity at our nation's colleges and universities", Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a statement.

Retracting the memos sends a signal about the Trump administration's priorities.

Tuesday's reversal also does not affect what a school decides to do on its own within the confines of current Supreme Court precedent, but civil rights groups swiftly reacted with disappointment.

RomanBabakin via Getty Images Harvard University is accused of discriminating against Asian-American applicants by conservative advocate Edward Blum.

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The rules under Obama, a Democrat, were issued by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education.

The Trump administration's action was put in motion with a letter from Kenneth Marcus, assistant education secretary for civil rights, and John Gore, acting assistant attorney general. Colleges could potentially use the new Trump revisions to help defend themselves against lawsuits over their admission policies, however. Federal prosecutors will investigate and sue universities over discriminatory admissions policies, he said. "When issuing regulations, federal agencies must abide by constitutional principles and follow the rules set forth by Congress and the President", Sessions said. "It happens all the time across administrative units".

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.

The new affirmative action guidance could add to an already contentious fight over the next justice.

The following year, the Bush administration advised schools to use "race-neutral methods" to determine where children go to school, suggesting that officials use socioeconomic status instead of race.

Despite the administration's skepticism of race-based policies, Kleinman said she has seen no less cooperation from the Justice Department in active desegregation cases. 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. These guidances were not talking about court-ordered desegregation or something like that.

Trump admin reverses Obama, prods schools to ignore racial factors in admissions