Black activists are praising the Department of Justice’s announcement on Tuesday that the Obama-era, race-based college admission guidance to further advance affirmation action law would end.
“In the 21st century, we shouldn’t be making race a basis for who gets into school and who doesn’t,” Project 21 Co-Chairman Horace Cooper, a former professor of constitutional law at George Mason University and senior counsel to congressional leadership, said in statements from Project 21 members distributed to the media.
“The Supreme Court has never held that affirmative action in admissions should be a generic remediation tool for all past racial injustice,” Cooper said. “Such an approach is no better than the injustice of segregation-based school admissions.”
“The Obama Administration pressured schools to do just that,” Cooper said. “Now President Trump is moving us away from that approach back to the color-blind vision of Dr. Martin Luther King.”
“I’ve always felt that acceptance to higher education should be merit-based and means-tested,” Project 21 member Dr. Carol M. Swain, a former professor at Vanderbilt University and Princeton University, said in a video statement. “I believe President Trump is wise to rescind the aggressive Obama-era affirmative action directive for the use of race in student admissions.
“This [Obama policy] places students in situations where they are doomed to fail, become embittered by rising debt and frustrated with the mismatch between abilities and expectations,” Swain said. “There are better approaches to educating minority students that are more likely to lead them to their long-term success – and available at a much broader range of institutions.”
“As a black college student, I feel proud knowing I was admitted due to my academic merit and extracurricular accomplishments rather than my skin color,” Stone Washington, a rising senior at Clemson University in South Carolina and a Project 21 member, said. “Instead of admitting students solely on the preference of race to appear diverse, colleges should admit students for superior academic qualifications.
“Schools continuing race-based admissions discrimination while failing to improve the dwindling graduation rate for black students deserve to face consequences,” Washington said.
“The American people deserve to have their voices heard and a government that is accountable to them,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in making the announcement. “When issuing regulations, federal agencies must abide by constitutional principles and follow the rules set forth by Congress and the President.”
“In previous administrations, however, agencies often tried to impose new rules on the American people without any public notice or comment period, simply by sending a letter or posting a guidance document on a website,” Sessions said. “That’s wrong, and it’s not good government.”
Since Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his summer retirement speculation about how President Donald Trump putting a conservative on the bench to replace him may pose a threat to court decisions already made, including affirmative action, which Kennedy championed.
CNN made the connection between Trump’s college admission policy and his SCOTUS nomination.
“While the decision does not change current US law on affirmative action, it provides a strong illustration of the administration’s position on an issue that could take on renewed attention with the departure of Justice Anthony Kennedy from the Supreme Court,” CNN reported.
Kennedy was seen as the sole voice among the court’s current Republican appointees who was open to race-based affirmative-action plans for public colleges and universities. However, he did not seem enthusiastic about the practice, and rarely seemed to find an instance in which he thought the programs were tailored enough to pass constitutional muster.
But in a surprise decision in 2016, Kennedy wrote a 4-3 majority opinion upholding the University of Texas’ program aimed at achieving diversity in its undergraduate student body. Still, the slender majority on a court operating shorthanded after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and the recusal of Justice Elena Kagan, demonstrated that affirmative action was hanging by a thread that Kennedy appeared to be holding.
Project 21 recently released its “Blueprint for a Better Deal for Black America,” which includes recommending schools be required to meet minimum graduation rate standards for both general and minority student populations to be eligible for federal student financial aid.
Trump said he would announce his decision on a SCOTUS nominee on Monday.
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