- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Trump administration’s Justice Department is directing its Civil Rights Division to investigate and possibly sue colleges and universities over race-based affirmative action admissions policies, The New York Times reported.

The reshuffling of resources was outlined in an internal DOJ document obtained by The Times, which called for applications for Civil Rights Division attorneys interested in working on the project. The project is said to cover “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.”

A Justice Department official said the announcement was a “personnel posting” that “does not reflect a new policy or program or any changes to longstanding DOJ policy.” But the news was met with stiff resistance from civil rights groups, who called it “an affront” to the very mission of the Civil Rights Division’s goals.

“Yet again, the [Jeff] Sessions Justice Department, led by the political leadership and marginalizing the career employees, is changing course on a key civil rights issue,” said Vanita Gupta, a former head of the Civil Rights Division and the current president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Longstanding Supreme Court precedent has upheld the constitutionality and compelling state interest of these policies, and generations of Americans have benefited from richer, more inclusive institutions of higher education.”

For decades, race-based affirmative action programs have been used to diversify campuses and offer students from disadvantaged minority groups, particularly black and Latino students, admission preference over others with higher test scores.

But some white and Asian students have lodged complaints, saying they’ve been put at a disadvantage in the admissions process.

The Supreme Court ruled last year that it is lawful to use race as one factor in college admissions to ensure a diverse student body, but warned that not all affirmative action programs would pass constitutional scrutiny. The challenge was brought by a white woman who said she was not accepted to the University of Texas because of her race.

The Asian American Coalition for Education has likewise encouraged Asian applicants to submit discrimination complaints to the Department of Education.

“Each year, many Asian-American applicants with excellent extra-curricular activities, competition medals, extraordinary SAT scores, and high GPAs are unfairly rejected by Ivy League universities, who illegally use quotas, racially-differentiated standards and stereotypes to discriminate against Asian-American applicants,” read a statement from the group issued last month as it encouraged the filing of complaints.

DOJ spokesman Ian Prior said the department declined to “confirm or deny the existence of a specific investigation.”

Legal groups angered by the news, said the initiative is just the latest example of changes being made under the Trump administration that will harm minorities.

“The DOJ’s continued war on civil rights has hit a new low today, and only serves to reinforce that the administration is hell bent on creating an America that targets vulnerable communities, undermines important civil rights protections, and ultimately excludes millions of Americans from participating in public life,” said Rachel B. Tiven, the CEO of Lambda Legal.

“Instead of bolstering and strengthening education and opportunity, this administration has used education as a vehicle to advance discrimination — first by targeting transgender students through the Department of Education, and now by targeting people of color through the Department of Justice,” she said.

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