In case you missed it the right has been reconditioning and rolling out their anti-Civil Rights crew frantically over the past several months. One of the folks to get a shiny new paint job was Pat Buchanan – although with his vision of a white America as a precondition for continued greatness – I think he let the real cat out of the bag a little too quickly. George Will blubbering about how AA has hurt minorities… A Republican sitting a panel which dealt with discrimination gets canned – by railing against minorities… They have even have stalwart Lawn Jockeys like Larry Elder and Walter Williams de-fossilized and trotted out in a reprise of their racism shielding role for the conservative right in the 90’s.
So why all the sudden attention?
The Obama administration on Friday urged colleges and universities to get creative in improving racial diversity at their campuses, throwing out a Bush-era interpretation of recent Supreme Courtrulings that limited affirmative action in admissions.
The new guidelines issued by the Departments of Justice and Education replaced a 2008 document that essentially warned colleges and universities against considering race at all. Instead, the guidelines focus on the wiggle room in the court decisions involving the University of Michigan, suggesting that institutions use other criteria — students’ socioeconomic profiles, residential instability, the hardships they have overcome — that are often proxies for race. Schools could even grant preferences to students from certain schools selected for, among other things, their racial composition, the new document says.
“Post-secondary institutions can voluntarily consider race to further the compelling interest of achieving diversity,” reads the 10-page guide sent to thousands of college admissions officials on Friday afternoon. In some cases, it says, “race can be outcome determinative.”
The administration issued a parallel 14-page outline on Friday for the nation’s 17,000 public school districts, explaining what government lawyers consider to be acceptable ways that educators can seek to reduce racial segregation, which has been increasing nationwide.
The two documents, issued as the presidential campaign heats up and as the Supreme Court considers whether to hear a new affirmative action case, were designed to give educators a clear administration interpretation of three high court cases that, since 2003, have limited the use of race in admissions, zoning and other school policies.
The contrast with the Bush guidelines interpreting the same three cases is stark. Where the Bush administration’s letter in 2008 states, “Quotas are impermissible,” the 2011 version says “an institution may permissibly aim to achieve a critical mass of underrepresented students.” Even in addressing the same principles, the framework is practically reversed.
Bush guidelines: “Before using race, there must be a serious good faith consideration of workable race-neutral alternatives.”
Obama guidelines: “Institutions are not required to implement race-neutral approaches if, in their judgment, the approaches would be unworkable.”
Colleges seeking to increase diversity while not running afoul of Supreme Court guidelines, the new document says, “could select schools (including community colleges) based on their demographics (e.g., their racial or socioeconomic composition), and grant an admission preference” to graduates of those schools. They could also “select high schools for partnership” based, among other things, on “racial composition of the school’s student body” and former partnerships with historically black colleges and universities”; consider race as they select students for mentoring programs; and sponsor retention or support programs that highlight, for example, “the accomplishments of Latino business leaders.”
Ada Meloy, general counsel for the American Council on Education, which represents 1,800 universities and colleges, predicted that educators would immediately begin to pursue ways to draw more racial minorities, as the new guidelines would ease fears of legal challenge.
“University administrators have been confused about how they could follow the court’s rulings and still achieve the benefits of diversity,” Ms. Meloy said. “So they will welcome this practical, step-by-step set of directions.”
For kindergarten through 12th grade, the guidelines tell school districts that they can shape policies on locating schools, drawing attendance boundaries and governing student transfers to achieve a better racial mix. For example, a school district with two elementary schools with distinctly different demographics could consider making one school serve kindergarten through second grade and the other grades 3 to 5 in order to force a better mix.
“Diverse learning environments promote development of analytical skills, dismantle stereotypes and prepare students to succeed in an increasingly interconnected world,”Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a statement. “The guidance announced today will aid educational institutions in their efforts to provide true equality of opportunity.”
Lee C. Bollinger, an advocate of affirmative action, was the named defendant, as president of the University of Michigan, in the two 2003 Supreme Court cases that laid down new markers on the permissible use of race in admissions. He described the new guidelines as “perfect.”
“It’s a very fair interpretation of what the court decided,” said Mr. Bollinger, a First Amendment scholar who is now president of Columbia University, “which is primarily that race can be one of many factors, and as long as your policies truly embody that approach, you’ll be fine, and can strive for diversity in all its benefits.” (more)