Attorney General Jeff Sessions down. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
The Trump administration plans to challenge affirmative action admission policies by redirecting resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies.
The policies according to the Trump administration are viewed as a means of discriminating against white applicants, according to a document obtained by The New York Times.
According to the New York Times report on Wednesday, The Department of Justice is seeking current lawyers interested in working for a new project to investigate possible litigation “related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.”
The latest announcement brings into question the project’s location. One theory is that it may be run by political appointees as opposed to civil servants. The division in question, within the Trump administration’s front office, is comprised of political appointees rather than its Educational Opportunities Section, which normally handles the work of schools, colleges, and universities and is run by career civil servants.
It is unclear regarding the language in the document in identifying explicitly, whom the Justice Department considers at risk for discrimination because of affirmative action admissions policies. However, the terminology used “intentional race-based discrimination,” points to reversing programs designed to bring more minority students to university campuses.
Amid the controversy over the DOJ challenging the college admission “affirmative action programs,” both critic and supporters of the project, agree that the move targets admissions programs. The affirmative action programs, grant members of generally disadvantaged groups, such as black and Latino students preference over other applicants with comparable or higher test scores as reported by the New York Times.
The project is another sign that the civil rights division are taking on a conservative tilt under President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. It follows other changes in Justice Department policy on voting rights, gay rights, and police reforms.
The Justice Department declined to provide more details about its plans or to make the acting head of the civil rights division, John Gore, available for an interview.
“The Department of Justice does not discuss personnel matters, so we’ll decline comment,” said Devin O’Malley, a department spokesman.
Division lawyers who interested in working on the affirmative action project must submit their resumes by Aug. 9, as noted in the announcement as it relates to the pending start of the affirmative action project. This project includes a series of changes pending involving civil rights law since the Trump presidency.
The civil rights division has been a recurring culture-war battleground as it passed between Democratic and Republican administrations.
During the George W. Bush administration, its overseers violated Civil Service hiring laws. An inspector general found, by filling its career ranks with conservatives with minimal experience in civil rights law. At the same time, fewer cases were presented, alleging systematic discrimination against minorities – with more cases presented, which alleged reverse discrimination against whites, such as a 2006 lawsuit forcing Southern Illinois University to stop reserving certain fellowship programs for women or members of underrepresented racial groups.
In 2009, the Obama administration pledged to revitalize the agency and hired career officials who brought in several new lawyers with experience working for traditional, liberal-leaning civil-rights organizations.
Amid the pending firestorm surrounding the DOJ challenging affirmative action admission policies at campuses and universities, affirmative action grew out of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and was meant to remedy past effects of discrimination on people of color.
Today, more than five decades since Brown v. Board of Education and James Meredith became the first black student admitted to the University of Mississippi, black and brown students in the nation still receive a far worse preK-12 public school education than white children.
Minorities are more likely than white students to be suspended from school, to have less access to rigorous math and science classes, and to be taught by lower-paid teachers with less experience, as noted in comprehensive data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights in March 2014.
By LeNora Millen 08-02-17