The U.S. Justice Department is potentially planning to redirect resources of its civil rights division to investigate and possibly sue universities over admissions policies deemed to have discriminated against white applicants.
In an exclusive report published by the New York Times late Tuesday, the newspaper cited an internal memo that seeks lawyers in the department’s civil rights division who are interested in working on a new project on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.”
The move by the Justice Department only fuels a myth supported by affirmative action critics that colleges and universities continue to focus on gender and race in an effort to meet quotas.
The DOJ appears to want to use civil rights division funds to investigate what the U.S. Supreme Court has already settled.
In 1978, the Supreme Court rejected racial quotas in college admissions. And, in 2016, the Supreme Court ruled in a landmark case on diversity and admissions that the University of Texas could use race as one factor among many in evaluating an applicant.
The 2016 ruling does not override an amendment to the Michigan state constitution prohibiting the use of race as criteria in admissions.
In reality, in an effort to have a more diverse student body, public and private universities now use a variety of factors to determine a student’s admissibility, beyond race and gender.
“Many institutions are now taking a more comprehensive approach to admissions, recognizing that students bring many different attributes, interests, experiences, and skill sets that contribute to the learning environment on campus,” Jonathan Alger, president of James Madison University (JMS), told DiversityInc on Wednesday.
Courtney McAnuff, vice president of enrollment management at Rutgers University, echoed Alger’s assessment.
“I do think most schools are complying with the law and using race as one factor in a holistic review,” McAnuff told DiversityInc.
“At Rutgers we use primarily socio-economic factors in the review process. What I do think will happen, is that many schools will be much stricter in interpreting guidelines because of concern about federal reviews and sanctions.
“Above all, most institutions realize that the only path to reducing expenditures for poverty programs, such as public assistance, is education.
“It is the one true economic leveler, and for every low income student who graduates from college, the quality of life in the community and the tax burden are positively improved.”
Education being the “one true economic leveler” is what many Black and Latino parents teach their children.
According to a Pew Research Center survey released last year, Latino and Black parents are significantly more likely than white parents to believe it’s essential that their children earn a college degree.
But has an increase in Latinos and Blacks earning college degrees decreased the racial wealth gap?
The survey found 86 percent of Latino and 79 percent of Black parents with children under the age of 18 said it is either extremely or very important their children earn a college degree. However, only 67 percent of white parents said the same.
Since 1993 college enrollment has grown among all races, but gains have been biggest among Latinos, a population the Trump administration has targeted in regard to immigration.
Myth: Affirmative Action Diminishes the Likelihood of a White Student Being Admitted
Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger presented “Seven Myths about Affirmative Action in Universities” during a symposium at the College of Law at Willamette University in 2002.
He said a myth about affirmative action is that the policy, “well-intentioned and even important as it is, materially diminishes the likelihood of a white student being admitted, and is therefore unfair.”
Bollinger deconstructed the myth.
“It is not mathematically possible that the small numbers of minority students who apply and are admitted are displacing a significant number of white students. In their book ‘The Shape of the River,’ William Bowen, former president of Princeton, and Derek Bok, former president of Harvard, looked at the nationwide statistics concerning admissions to selective universities.
“They determined that even if all selective universities implemented a race-blind admissions system, the probability of being admitted for a white student would only go from 25 percent to 26.2 percent.”
Alger told DiversityInc that institutions such as JMU “seek to provide opportunities for students to provide a more complete picture of their entire background.”
“At the same time, we are also looking to remove barriers to access for students of all backgrounds,” he said.
This year, JMU has gone test-optional in admissions.
“We learned over time that standardized test scores were not a significant predictor of success for our students, and because these tests can impose costs and barriers for many students,” Alger said.
“We have also joined with other colleges and universities in using the Coalition Application, which, like the Common Application, makes it easier for students to apply to multiple schools.”
Privilege of Rich Whites: Alumni Relationship
Bollinger also mentioned in his speech that alumni relationships (parent, sibling or grandparent) could be a factor in admissions.
One could argue that consideration of alumni relationships in the admissions process is a form of bias benefitting wealthy, white families, including President Donald Trump’s family members.
Daniel Golden, author of the book “The Price of Admission,” published in 2006, blatantly says, “The rich buy their under-achieving children’s way into elite universities with massive, tax-deductible donations.”
In 1998, New Jersey real estate developer Charles Kushner pledged $2.5 million to Harvard University not long before his son Jared, Trump’s son-in-law, was admitted.
“At the time, Harvard accepted about one of every nine applicants,” Golden wrote.
He also said that a former official at Kushner’s high school, The Frisch School in Paramus, N.J., told him:
“There was no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard. His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it. We thought for sure, there was no way this was going to happen.”
A spokeswoman for Kushner Companies denied that Kushner’s father’s donation helped him get into Harvard.
Trump spent his first two years of college at Fordham University and then was admitted to the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Students [at Penn] have recoiled at being linked to a wheeler-dealer whose business record suggests more skill at financial chicanery than genuine company-building,” according to Politico.
“The Trumps became the archetypal Ivy League legacy family — well-known, well-heeled, ‘brand loyal.’”
Donald Trump Jr. graduated from Wharton in 2000, followed by his sister Ivanka Trump, who entered Wharton in 2002 after spending two years at Georgetown, and graduated in 2004.
And in 2016, Tiffany Trump, the president’s daughter with his second wife Marla Maples, graduated from Penn as well.