World Media

Trump to rescind Obama-era guidance on affirmative action

President Donald Trump looks toward Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as he speaks during a workforce  apprenticeship discussion at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster N.J. Friday Aug. 11 2017. Trump received an update on the the president's wor

The Trump administration's announcement is more in line with Bush-era policy that discouraged affirmative action and instead encouraged the use of race-neutral alternatives, like percentage plans and economic diversity programs.

The reversal doesn't change current US law on affirmative action and doesn't affect how schools choose to operate within the confines of current Supreme Court precedent, but changes guidelines to more closely resemble a Bush-era document encouraging "race-neutral" methods of admitting students to elementary and secondary schools.

However Conservatives have said such programs can hurt white people and Asian-Americans.

Last November, the US Department of Justice responded to AACE's civil rights complaint against the Harvard University by starting an investigation into the school's admissions practices. Colleges could potentially use the new Trump revisions to help defend themselves against lawsuits over their admission policies, however.

The move fits into a broader context of Trump administration reversals of a number of Obama-era education policies and regulations.

The Trump administration "could just be rescinding the Obama-era polices", Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, told Fox News.

Peter McDonough, vice president and general counsel of the American Council on Education, which represents college and university presidents, said he doubted schools would change their admission policies based exclusively on the announcement.

The Department of Justice is now investigating Harvard's use of race in admissions; specifically, whether the school is holding Asian-American students to a higher standard. With Trump expected to announce his nominee next week, the issue should be a central part of any confirmation process, said Howard University School of Law Dean Danielle Holley-Walker. The new policy would not have the force of law, but it amounts to the official view of the federal government. 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. Harvard, meanwhile, said it would continue considering race as an admissions factor to create a "diverse campus community where students from all walks of life have the opportunity to learn with and from each other".

Many have not shied away from expressing their deep disappointment over the Trump administration's Tuesday decision.

Still, the rescinding of the Obama guidelines could have a chilling effect on some universities as they consider the makeup of incoming freshman classes, advocates of affirmative action said.

The studies were filed in Boston's federal court as both sides attempted to persuade a judge to end the suit before it reaches trial, which has been scheduled to start in October.

And in the final year of Barack Obama's presidency, the Supreme Court vindicated his administration's position.

As Peter Wood said at the time, the guidance documents "seem to sanction common university practices which circumvent the law".

The policy shift comes at a pivotal moment in the long-running affirmative action debate.