On July 3, Attorney General Jeff Sessions put an end to several Obama administration mandates on affirmative action in schools. Sessions revoked 24 guidance documents, some of which allowed for racial discrimination in the admissions process. Usually known for being used by colleges across the nation, including Ivy League schools, affirmative action had begun to be a policy used by K-12 public schools as well. This action by the Justice Department may make a stronger case for recent legal challenges against the policy. While affirmative action was recently upheld due to a swing vote from Justice Anthony Kennedy in the 2016 Fisher v. University of Texas case, Kennedy’s retirement in July presents a new opportunity for another Trump-appointed conservative justice to bring a swift reversal of the ruling.
Two current lawsuits that could head to the Supreme Court next year, one against Harvard and one against the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill for their affirmative action policies, could abolish the policy nationwide once and for all. Furthermore, liberal governors would be up against a much stronger anti-affirmative action coalition since the policy first became mainstream. Advocates for school choice, which has become a more bipartisan issue, would benefit from the revoking of affirmative action policies. School choice could be seen as a less controversial and more effective way of ensuring race equality in schools.
In addition to revoking these guidance policies, the Justice Department is also investigating Harvard over its documented racial discrimination against Asian-American applicants. The DOJ called for the public disclosure of Harvard’s admissions practices after the university’s own internal investigation revealed it had been capping the number of admissions for Asian-American students who had outstanding academic records. Asian-Americans were consistently passed over for having low “personality trait” testing results. Students for Fair Admissions, the group bringing the lawsuit against Harvard, is using this report as the basis for its case.