The Obama administration told colleges and universities around the nation Friday that affirmative action should be used whenever and wherever possible to determine which applicants are accepted for enrollment, essentially ignoring a Supreme Court ruling to use race only as a last resort.
In a letter sent out Friday, the administration said that "racially diverse educational environments help to prepare students to succeed in our increasingly diverse nation," the Associated Press reported. The letter also maintained that the court's recent ruling — seen by some as a crackdown on affirmative action — had actually "preserved the well-established legal principle" that places of higher learning should embrace and seek out a diverse student body.
The letter was signed by Catherine Lhamon, the Education Department's assistant secretary in the Office for Civil Rights, and Jocelyn Samuels, with the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. In an accompanying paper, Miss Samuels wrote, on behalf of the administration, that race can still be used as a determining factor for college admission — as long as enrollment officials are careful.
"I would hope that colleges and universities would undertake these programs in carefully structured ways that would avoid legal challenge, and we certainly are available to try to help them do that," she wrote.
The Supreme Court ruled on June 24 that schools should only use affirmative action and race as considerations for acceptance if "no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity."
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