Universities pledge to maintain affirmative action policies
Several major universities are pledging to continue using race as a factor in hiring and admissions after the Trump administration reversed the federal endorsement of affirmative action.
In the wake of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ move to rescind government guidance on affirmative action, universities across the country, including many Ivy League schools, are coming forward with statements asserting their intent to maintain the policy.
“Affirmative action is a proven method of promoting diversity on our campus and is supported by decades of American case law,” Dartmouth College announced in a press release last week. “Dartmouth remains firmly committed to exercising that right to affirmative action in hiring and admissions.”
Yale University has also come forward to declare that it has no intention of changing its admissions policies or standards.
“Yale seeks to create a vibrant and varied academic community where our students interact with people of different backgrounds and points of view,” Yale spokesman Tom Conroy told The Yale Daily News. “Our admissions policies and practices reflect and support this goal.”
Conroy also told the publication that Yale’s procedures and policies related to admissions have and will continue to reflect the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the relevant laws.
Likewise, Harvard University sent out an email to the student body reaffirming its decision not to change the current policy in light of Session’s announcement.
“Harvard will continue to vigorously defend its right, and that of all colleges and universities, to consider race as one factor among many in college admissions, which has been upheld by the Supreme Court for more than 40 years,” spokesperson Melodie L. Jackson wrote in the email, as reported by The Harvard Crimson.
Notably, Harvard is currently engaged in a legal battle to defend its affirmative action policies against accusations that they discriminate against Asian American applicants.
In a July 3 statement, University of Texas President Gregory L. Fenves took a similar position, referencing the 2016 Supreme Court case Fisher v University of Texas at Austin, in which the school was accused of racial discrimination against a white woman.
"The U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 affirmed The University of Texas’ efforts to enroll a diverse student body that provides educational benefits for all students,” Fenves said.
“That decision upheld our holistic admissions policies, which remain central to our constitutional mandate to serve the state of Texas, and our mission to prepare graduates to thrive in society,” he continued. “The University of Texas seeks to provide the highest quality education for our students, and diversity is essential to those efforts."
According to The Daily Northwestern, Northwestern University spokesman Storer Rowley also released a statement asserting that the school had “reviewed the current administration’s guidance on this matter, just as it has done with guidance from previous administrations,” and that administrators are “confident that our admissions practices comply with the law.”
Similarly, Wesleyan University President Michael S. Roth penned a passionate response to the federal government’s announcement in a blog post on the school’s website titled “Defend Affirmative Action.”
“Creating a diverse campus is in the interest of all students, and it offers those from racial minorities opportunities that have historically been denied them,” Roth writes. “That’s why governing boards and admissions deans have crafted policies to find students from underrepresented groups for whom a strong education will have a transformative, even liberating effect.”
“Many citizens, but particularly citizens from racial and ethnic minorities, have turned to the federal government to ensure access to political and economic opportunity,” Roth claims. “That’s why it’s particularly appalling to see the Trump administration attempting to push higher education away from affirmative action.”
Roth went on to blast Trump’s suggestion to implement a “merit-based” immigration system, urging the university to “resist” efforts to eliminate affirmative action.
“This latest threat to higher education?like recent decisions undermining voting rights and plans for a ‘merit-based’ immigration system?is at its core another attempt by elites to hold on to their privileges by limiting access to political participation, social mobility and economic opportunity,” Roth argues.
“A retreat from affirmative action will just return us to the orchestrated parochialism of the past,” he concludes. “We must resist it.”
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