The civil rights division of the Justice Department is planning to investigate and potentially take legal action against universities over affirmative action admissions policies that critics say discriminate against white applicants, according to a new report.
The New York Times, citing an internal document the newspaper obtained, reports that department leaders announced a new initiative involving “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.” The report sparked backlash among civil rights groups and fueled concerns about a rollback of civil rights protections under the Trump Administration, as many argued the project would be a step back for minority students who are underrepresented on college campuses.
“We wholly condemn this latest attempt by the Justice Department to attack the use of race-conscious admissions policies in the higher education context,” the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said in a statement Tuesday. “We will not stand by idly as this administration continues to hijack and obstruct the civil rights division’s core mission to address discrimination face by racial minority groups in our country.”
Controversial affirmative action policies have recently prompted lawsuits at Harvard University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Texas at Austin. The Supreme Court ruled last year that officials at the University of Texas could continue considering race as one factor in admissions.
Those who considered that ruling a setback welcomed the Justice Department’s internal announcement this week.
“The civil rights laws were deliberately written to protect everyone from discrimination, and it is frequently the case that not only are whites discriminated against now, but frequently Asian-Americans are as well,” Roger Clegg, president of the conservative Center for Equal Opportunity, told the Times.
Clegg, who was previously an official in the civil rights division during the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, called the development “long overdue.”