While the decision does not change current U.S. law on affirmative action, it provides a strong illustration of the administration's position on an issue that could take on renewed attention with the departure of Justice Anthony Kennedy from the Supreme Court.
The administration revived the probe a year ago after Obama civil rights officials. But it is a further sign of the Trump administration's opposition. The Justice Department has previously threatened to sue universities over affirmative action policies.
The Education and Justice departments pulled seven Obama-era guidances that laid out how schools could voluntarily promote diversity through admissions and school assignment. "President Trump has indicated he intends to appoint a nominee to the Supreme Court who will declare that affirmative action is unconstitutional in our schools".
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The Trump administration is also likely preparing to oppose Harvard's admissions policies in a lawsuit that was filed by the Students for Fair Admissions claiming that the Ivy League university's race-based policies hurt Asian-American applicants, Clegg said. In April, the department, headed by Betsy DeVos, implemented new guidelines that allowed civil rights investigations to be closed if they were considered "too burdensome " to investigate.
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.
The impact on college practices remains to be seen.
Clegg, however, says when skin color and national origin are factors in deciding where a student can attend school - a policy based on discrimination is, in fact, in effect. He noted that administrative guidance does not carry the legal weight of court rulings or statutes enacted by Congress. "It isn't shocking that guidance would be withdrawn", he said. If you're going to use race, it has to be one of many factors, part of a holistic review of a student's application.
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The new policy would dramatically depart from the stance taken by the Obama administration, which in a 2011 policy document said courts had recognized schools' "compelling interest" in diverse populations.
The new affirmative action guidance could add to an already contentious fight over the next justice.
The Obama approach replaced Bush-era policy from a decade earlier that discouraged affirmative action and instead encouraged the use of race-neutral alternatives, like percentage plans and economic diversity programs. 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. That guidance also cautioned school officials that they should be careful when using race and that they could do so only in limited circumstances. These guidances were not talking about court-ordered desegregation or something like that.
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