President Donald Trump sees “affirmative action” as being incredibly discriminatory against white applicants of colleges and now he’s directed the Justice Department to see what can be done about this.
The Trump administration is directing the Justice Department to explore whether it can sue institutions of higher education over affirmative action policies that the White House deems discriminatory against white applicants, The New York Times is reporting.
The Times based its report on a document that it obtained.
The internal announcement to the Justice Department’s civil rights division puts out a call for lawyers interested in working on a new project focused on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions,” the Times reported.
Supporters and detractors of the project told the Times that the project was clearly going after programs that benefit black and Latino students and other groups.
Roger Clegg, a key official in the civil rights division in the Reagan and Bush administrations, told the Times that the project was “long overdue.”
For supporters of affirmative action in college admissions, the news was a shock. Just over a year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the admissions policies of the University of Texas at Austin, which include consideration of race and ethnicity. Many college leaders feared, prior to the decision coming down, that affirmative action was endangered. But the decision — just three years after another Supreme Court decision upholding affirmative action — assured many that colleges could continue to consider race in admissions.
Critics of affirmative action have never abandoned their hope that the Supreme Court might some day revisit the issue, and a new lawsuit was filed against UT just weeks ago. But the backing of the U.S. Justice Department could give that movement new strength.
Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, which opposes affirmative action, told the Timeshe welcomed the new campaign by the Justice Department. “The civil rights laws were deliberately written to protect everyone from discrimination, and it is frequently the case that not only are whites discriminated against now, but frequently Asian-Americans are as well,” he said.
Advocates for diversity in higher education told Inside Higher Ed via email that they were concerned by the Justice Department’s apparent new campaign.
Dan Losen, a lawyer who is director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that he found the Justice Department’s action deeply distressing.
“This is another example of how the administration is dismantling the Department of Justice, turning core constitutional protections upside down and the concept of remedying discrimination on its head,” he said. “What do you expect from a president that makes openly bigoted remarks about Mexican-American judges, has boasted about assaulting women, has a history of engaging in racially discriminatory housing practices and is fighting to ban entrants to our country based on their religious background? Make no mistake, the Trump administration’s positions are consistent with his bigoted statements and historical track record. Further, he hired Jeff Sessions to run the DOJ despite Sessions’s own horrible track record on civil rights, and over the objections of every known civil rights group and nearly half the Senate.”
Indeed, when the American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity urged the U.S. Senate to oppose the nomination of Sessions as attorney general, it cited — among other things — a comment he made in 1997 about affirmative action. At the time, he said of affirmative action, “I think it has, in fact, been a cause of irritation and perhaps has delayed the kind of movement to racial harmony we ought to be going forward [with] today. I think it makes people unhappy if they lost a contract or a right to go to a school or a privilege to attend a university simply because of their race.”