The Trump administration may be planning to sue universities for discriminating against white applicants in the admissions process. As if that wasn't problematic enough, they're using the resources from the civil rights division of the Justice Department to do so, according to The New York Times.
This means that government lawyers will focus their attention on investigating universities that consider race as a factor in their admissions decisions. The project doesn't say which groups of people they think are being victimized, but it's likely they believe race-based admission harms white and Asian American applicants. Affirmative action programs at universities are meant to level the playing field by providing opportunities to historically disadvantaged groups, such as blacks and Latinos. However, some are opposed to affirmative action programs because they believe it unfairly punishes other groups. For example, a Princeton study found that Asian Americans have to score 140 points higher on the SAT than whites, 270 points higher than Hispanics and 450 points higher than blacks when it comes to university admissions.
Studies like these are what's fueling the Trump administration to direct resources away from increasing diversity and place them toward making admissions more about scores than race. This new plan seems to align with Attorney General Jeff Sessions' beliefs on civil rights. He's known for racist comments he made as an attorney in Alabama.
If universities are not allowed to consider race in their decisions, students who grew up in poorer areas of America will be at a disadvantage when it comes to getting into college, because they may not have had access to tutors, after-school clubs or even a car to travel to practices or study sessions. Affirmative action provides opportunities and social mobility to minorities to achieve the American dream. The University of California at Berkeley is one example of what universities could look like without such programs, since the university banned affirmative action in 1996 and became 42 percent Asian.
If Trump's program is implemented, it would be managed by his political appointees, instead of career officials, which raises concerns about their objectivity. InsideGov reports that Trump opposes affirmative action, since he believes "well-educated blacks have advantage over whites." But Trump has discussed affirmative action, and said, "I'm fine with it, but we have it, it's there. But it's coming to a time when maybe we don't need it. That would be a wonderful thing. I don't think we need it so much anymore. It has served its place, and it served its time." So, is he fine with it or does he think it's not necessary?
We'll have to watch whether Trump's potential lawsuits against universities will end in the government's favor. In the past, the Supreme Court ruled that campuses benefit from diversity, so considering race as one factor in admissions is legal and acceptable. However, the line is unclear on how much weight can be placed on race—the court said colleges cannot use racial quotas or race-based point systems.
We'll see if the program is implemented and what the Supreme Court thinks about all this, but Trump doesn't have the best track record for winning cases. The most important goal should be to make sure every student who wants a great education can get one.