The Trump administration is moving to rescind Obama-era guidance to colleges and universities on how they can use race in admissions decisions to promote diversity, according to an administration official.
The action, expected Tuesday afternoon, is likely to signal a shift toward advocacy of race-neutral admissions. The Supreme Court has upheld race-conscious admission practices as recently as 2016, but affirmative action in higher education remains a contentious issue.
In 2011 and 2016, the Obama administration’s Justice and Education departments jointly spelled out for colleges their view of the law on the voluntary use of race in admissions.
The 2011 statement said the departments “recognize the compelling interest that postsecondary institutions have in obtaining the benefits that flow from achieving a diverse student body.” It went on to assert that schools have flexibility “to take proactive steps, in a manner consistent with principles articulated in Supreme Court opinions, to meet this compelling interest.”
The Obama-era documents replaced a 2008 letter on the subject from the Bush administration. Now it appears that the Trump administration is about to assert its own views. A Justice Department spokesman said an announcement was imminent.
Former Obama officials criticized the move.
“Once again, the Trump administration works to create confusion where none exists, needlessly muddying civil rights practices in schools,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant education secretary for civil rights under Obama. “The Supreme Court has been consistent over decades in its rulings on lawful use of race in affirmative action and the guidance the Trump administration rescinds today offered nothing more than a clear and practical statement of the law and how to comply with it. Taking away that guidance undermines the steps toward equity school communities have long been taking.”