Communities

Department Of Justice To Investigate Discrimination Against White College Students 

by Tod Perry

August 3, 2017
Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr.

A startling study came out last November that showed Trump voters believe whites are more likely to face racial discrimination than Muslims, Jews, blacks, or Latinos. That might explain why the Department of Justice aims to investigate and sue universities over affirmative action admissions policies believed to discriminate against white applicants. 

A document obtained by The New York Times outlining the program does not specifically identify white applicants as the victims of these policies, but the investigation clearly targets race-based admissions policies designed to help minority students.

The project will not be run by the Education Opportunities Section, a division of the DOJ whose job is to prevent discrimination in schools and institutions of higher education. Instead, it will be run by the DOJ front office. This allows the Trump administration to oversee political appointees.

“The fact that the position is in the political front office, and not in the career section that enforces anti discrimination laws for education, suggests that this person will be carrying out an agenda aimed at undermining diversity in higher education without needing to say it,” Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, told The New York Times.

This project is emblematic of the pendulum swing to the political right occurring under Attorney General Jeff Sessions. It follows other DOJ policy shifts on gay rights, police reforms, and voting rights. “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,” Roger Clegg, president of the conservative Center for Equal Opportunity, told The New York Times.

The DOJ’s decision to investigate affirmative action comes a year after a landmark Supreme Court decison rejected a challenge to a race-based admissions policy. The Supreme Court’s 4-3 decison in Fisher v. University of Texas allows admissions officials to continue to consider race as one factor among many in ensuring a diverse student body.

As The New York Times points out, in states where affirmative action practices were banned, universities saw an immediate drop in enrollment of black and Hispanic students. Affirmative action helps level the playing field by giving minority students improved access to education and, later, high-paying careers. It also drives innovation in the private sector and enriches the educational experience for all students.

Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, believes the investigation flies in the face of the nation’s longstanding priorities. “This is deeply disturbing,” she told the Times. “It would be a dog whistle that could invite a lot of chaos and unnecessarily create hysteria among colleges and universities who may fear that the government may come down on them for their efforts to maintain diversity on their campuses.”

The ACLU believes this new policy flies is unconstitutional and that it “will hurt those who the laws were designed to protect.” 
 

 

Share image by Gage Skidmore/Flickr.

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Department Of Justice To Investigate Discrimination Against White College Students