The Trump administration is advising schools to avoid using race in admissions decisions. The change will reverse guidance issued by the Obama administration which recommended that schools consider race as one factor in admissions. The NY Times reports the change appears to be aimed at having an impact on a lawsuit filed against Harvard University over its admissions policies:
The Obama administration believed that students benefit from being surrounded by diverse classmates, so in 2011, the administration offered schools a potential road map to establishing affirmative action policies that could withstand legal scrutiny.
In a pair of policy guidance documents, the Education and Justice departments told elementary and secondary schools and college campuses to use “the compelling interests” established by the court to achieve diversity. They concluded that the Supreme Court “has made clear such steps can include taking account of the race of individual students in a narrowly tailored manner.”…
The Trump administration’s plan would scrap the existing policies and encourage schools not to consider race at all. The new policy would not have the force of law, but it amounts to the official view of the federal government. School officials who keep their admissions policies intact would do so knowing that they could face a Justice Department investigation or lawsuit, or lose federal funding from the Education Department…
Anurima Bhargava, who headed civil rights enforcement in schools for the Justice Department under President Barack Obama and co-authored the Obama-era guidance, said that the policy withdrawal was timed for brief filings in the Harvard litigation, due at the end of the month.
“This is a wholly political attack,” Ms. Bhargava said. “And our schools are the place where our communities come together, so our schools have to continue to promote diversity and address segregation, as the U.S. Constitution demands.”
As I pointed out last month, Harvard University is being sued by a group called Students for Fair Admissions. The group argues that Harvard’s admissions would be up to 40% Asian American if only grades and test scores were considered. But Harvard also rates the character qualities of applicants in a way that consistently undermines Asian students. Here’s how a NY Times opinion piece described the process:
Harvard evaluated applicants on the extent to which they possessed the following traits: likability, helpfulness, courage, kindness, positive personality, people like to be around them, the person is widely respected. Asian-Americans, who had the highest scores in both the academic and extracurricular ratings, lagged far behind all other racial groups in the degree to which they received high ratings on the personality score.
“Asian-American applicants receive a 2 or better on the personal score more than 20% of the time only in the top academic index decile. By contrast, white applicants receive a 2 or better on the personal score more than 20% of the time in the top six deciles,” wrote Mr. Arcidiacono. “Hispanics receive such personal scores more than 20% of the time in the top seven deciles, and African Americans receive such scores more than 20% of the time in the top eight deciles.”…
Mr. Arcidiacono found that an otherwise identical applicant bearing an Asian-American male identity with a 25 percent chance of admission would have a 32 percent chance of admission if he were white, a 77 percent chance of admission if he were Hispanic, and a 95 percent chance of admission if he were black.
So achieving diversity means telling high-performing Asian students that they aren’t as likable, helpful, courageous, kind, positive, or as widely respected as kids of other races. That seems like a high price for those kids to pay simply because so many other Asian kids excel at academics.