Michelle Hackman, Wall Street Journal, July 3, 2018
The Trump administration is planning to rescind Tuesday a set of Obama-era policies that encourage the use of race in college admissions to promote diverse educational settings, according to two people familiar with the plans.
The move comes as the Justice Department is investigating whether Harvard University is illegally discriminating against Asian-American students by holding them to a higher standard in its admissions process. The administration revived the probe last year after Obama civil rights officials dismissed a similar complaint.
The guidelines, issued jointly by the Obama Justice and Education departments, laid out legal recommendations for schools looking to use race as an admissions factor to boost diversity at their schools.
Trump administration officials plan to argue that the documents, published in 2011 and 2016, go beyond Supreme Court precedent on the issue and mislead schools to believe that legal forms of affirmative action are simpler to achieve than what the law allows.
The move comes as a lawsuit is unfolding in federal court against Harvard, in which the Justice Department has previously filed a so-called statement of interest.
The suit, filed in 2014 by a group called Students for Fair Admissions, alleges Harvard intentionally discriminates against Asian-Americans by limiting the number of Asian students who are admitted. It is expected to go to trial in October.
Harvard has previously said its admissions process is consistent with the legal precedents set over the past 40 years by the Supreme Court, which have allowed universities to consider race as a factor in admissions to obtain the benefits of a diverse student body.
In court filings published last month as part of its continuing litigation, the university revealed that Asian-American applicants on average had higher academic marks and received higher scores from alumni interviews than other racial groups. But on a “personal” score that admissions officers used to gauge applicants’ character, Asian students scored the lowest.