Trump reverses Obama-era race guidelines for admissions

Attorney General Jeff Sessions at an event in Reno Nev. on June 25

The new policy dramatically departs from the stance of the Obama administration, which on multiple occasions said schools could consider race in admissions decisions and should do so to foster diversity.

The Trump administration's plan would scrap the existing policies and encourage schools not to consider race at all.

The action comes amid a high-profile court fight over admission at Harvard University as well as Supreme Court turnover expected to produce a more critical eye toward schools' affirmative action policies.

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

Trump administration officials argue that those recommendations are misleading, making it seem as if it's easier to achieve a legal form of affirmative action than it actually is.

Harvard says its admissions policies comply with USA laws and that it has worked to boost financial aid to ensure economic, as well as racial, diversity in its classes.

In 2011, the Obama administration encouraged America's selective educational institutions to cultivate diversity in their classrooms, by "taking account of the race of individual students in a narrowly tailored manner". The Justice Department has previously threatened to sue universities over affirmative action policies. The US Supreme Court has upheld the use of race as a factor in admissions policies, as long as colleges can show that other methods alone cannot achieve diversity.

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The Justice Department under Trump has been investigating a complaint by more than 60 Asian-American organisations that say Harvard University's policies are discriminatory because they limit the acceptance of Asian-Americans. To remove the guidances now can only be described as a political attack on efforts to bring communities together and as a policy of separation and division. Blum said Tuesday the organization "welcomes any governmental actions that will eliminate racial classifications and preferences in college admissions".

The Republican Trump administration's move is being viewed by Democrats and liberals as a way to weaken affirmative action.

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

Students for Fair Admissions alleges that Harvard's rating system is stacked against Asian-Americans who tend to score lower on evaluations of personal traits, such as likability, even though their tests scores may be higher than those of other applicants and they participate in many extracurricular activities.

Ultimately, it should not come as a surprise that the Trump administration would rescind these guidelines, said Tomiko Brown-Nagin, the dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard and a constitutional law expert.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the action was meant to restore the rule of law by "rescinding federal guidance documents that were issued improperly or that were simply inconsistent with current law". 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".

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