Civil rights leaders across thecountry are on alert after a New York Times report said that President Donald Trump’s administration is positioning the Justice Department to investigate affirmative action admissions policies in colleges and universities.
The report said the Trump administration is trying to find out if these policies discriminate against white applicants. It’s the latest move that may further alienate the Trump administration from Black leaders who were already concerned about the president’s recent views on police brutality and civil rights.
In this latest move, the New York Times cites an internal job posting memo that seeks lawyers who are interested in working for a new project on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.”
Division lawyers who want to participate in the project must submit their résumés by August 9, according to the memo that was reported by the Times.
The announcement suggests that the project will be run out of the division’s front office, where the Trump administration’s political appointees work, rather than its Educational Opportunities Section, which is run by career civil servants and normally handles work involving schools and universities.
Since the departure of U.S. Attorney General, the Justice Department has tilted further to the conservative right on voting rights, gay rights and police reform.
Civil rights groups slammed the Justice Department’s latest move and critics are worried that programs that aid Black, Latino and other disadvantaged groups could be dismantled.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 61 percent of the 323 million people who live in the United States identify as non-Hispanic white. Eight of the 50 U.S. states ban affirmative action in public universities.
Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said allocating resources to investigate college admission programs would be a waste of taxpayers’ money.
In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 4 to 3 to uphold a race-conscious program at the University of Texas at Austin. However, Harvard University and the University of North Carolina are at the center of two high-profile lawsuits challenging such practices. College officials are closely following the Justice Department’s efforts and are ready to defend their policies as Trump’s administration seeks to push its conservative agenda on college campuses.
According to the Times, the Justice Department declined to provide more details about its plans or to make the acting head of the civil rights division, John Gore, available for an interview.
This story was supplemented by Reuters reporters Lawrence Hurley and Julia Edwards Ainsley.