The Slatest

Trump Administration Will Reportedly Roll Back Obama-Era Affirmative Action Guidelines

The decision runs parallel to a lawsuit accusing Harvard of discriminating against Asian Americans.
The decision runs parallel to a lawsuit accusing Harvard of discriminating against Asian Americans. Glen Cooper/Getty Images

The Trump administration is set on Tuesday to roll back Obama-era guidelines promoting the use of race as a factor in college admissions, the Wall Street Journal reports. The previous administration’s Department of Justice and Department of Education had jointly issued recommendations in 2011 and 2016 for how schools could legally foster diversity by pursuing race-conscious admissions, using previous Supreme Court cases on the matter as a reference.

Possible methods for improving diversity in a college’s student body, as spelled out by the guidelines, include implementing pipeline programs for local school districts, forming partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and considering socioeconomic class, geographic area, and first-generation college status as factors along with race in admissions decisions. The document warns universities not to make race an applicant’s “defining characteristic,” but rather to consider it in a holistic process.

According to the Wall Street Journal’s report, Trump officials plan to argue that the guidelines extrapolate too much from the Supreme Court precedents and understate how difficult it is to legally implement affirmative action policies. A former Justice Department official told the Journal that rescinding these guidelines is largely a symbolic gesture and that no actual laws have changed.

Vanita Gupta, who formerly served as head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, defended the guidelines and censured the administration’s move on Twitter:

The Trump administration has generally sought to weaken affirmative action. The Justice Department is investigating whether Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policies illegally discriminate against Asian Americans in response to a complaint that a civil rights official in the Obama administration decided to dismiss. The department’s probe runs parallel to an ongoing lawsuit against Harvard from rejected Asian American applicants, which in June produced evidence that the university’s admissions officers systematically rated Asian Americans the lowest in personality traits. Court documents from the case also show that Harvard conducted an internal investigation in 2013 and discovered proof of bias against Asian Americans, but it decided not to publicize or act on the findings. The university has responded that the plaintiff’s statistics are misleading and that its 2013 investigation was incomplete.