Learn from the nation's TOP PROFESSORS live at One Day University! Coming to Dunkin Donuts Park December 7th

Two College Leaders Say Admissions Policies Won't Be Affected by Federal Roll-Back of Obama-Era Policies on Affirmative Action

Two Connecticut college leaders say the Trump administration’s rollback of Obama-era guidelines that encouraged schools to consider an applicant’s race as a factor in the admissions process, will not affect their procedures.

“This move by the Trump administration was not surprising, but does not change the law,” Wesleyan University President Michael Roth said this week. “Given recent court decisions, colleges and universities are still free to develop policies that take race into account in relation to a number of other factors in their efforts to create a diverse educational environment.”

He said that Wesleyan “will continue to use our nuanced, holistic admissions procedures, which act affirmatively on our core priorities and values — including diversity.”

Angel B. Perez, Trinity College’s vice president for enrollment and student success, said that “a policy statement by the federal government does not change a college’s mission or values.”

“At Trinity we are committed to a diverse community that represents the nation and the world,” Perez said. “ Our students come from all walks of life, and it’s what makes our education most powerful and effective. Regardless of this announcement, we continue our deep commitment to diversity in all forms. It’s deeply rooted in our values, and that will never change.”

On Tuesday, the administration announced it was rescinding seven Obama-era policy guidelines on affirmative action.

A joint letter from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Justice Department said the departments reviewed the guidelines and concluded “that they advocate policy preferences and positions beyond the requirements of the Constitution.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said, “The Supreme Court has determined what affirmative action policies are constitutional, and the Court’s written decisions are the best guide for navigating this complex issue. Schools should continue to offer equal opportunities for all students while abiding by the law.”

Both Wesleyan and Trinity have made efforts to increase diversity on their campuses

At Wesleyan, students of color account for 30 percent of the classes of 2016 through 2020.

Several years ago, Trinity dropped the requirement that students submit standardized test scores partly as an effort to increase the diversity of the student body.

“If we’re going to open the doors wider, then we need to open the applicant [process] wider to more students,” Perez told The Courant in 2017.

Dennis Parker, racial justice program director of the National American Civil Liberties Union, said the decision “to revoke the guidelines is an unnecessary and callous attack on integration efforts and does harm to students of color.”

“The Trump administration might not believe that racial diversity in educational settings is a desirable goal worth pursuing, but experts do and so do the courts and the American people,” Parker said. “By continuing to adhere to the relevant decisions of the Supreme Court as outlined in the rescinded guidance, schools can carry the mantle for racial inclusion that the Trump administration so shamefully dropped today.”

Parker said that federal guidance has no force of law. The operative law, he said, is constitutional and cannot be changed by the Department of Justice or Department of Education.

However, he said in an email that it could be that the “law might be revisited by a more hostile Supreme Court.”

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced he will be retiring at the end of July, cast the swing vote on the most important education case at the kindergarten through grade-12 level as well as at the college level, Parker said.

“The feds could always sue a college hoping to get the case back up to the Supreme Court in the hopes of persuading them to reverse current law,” Parker said in an email. “There is a jurisprudential doctrine of stare decisis which strongly disfavors repeated revisiting decided law. But the doctrine does not bar revisiting and a sufficiently hostile court might not care.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2018, CT Now
37°