Thursday, August 03, 2017

Report: Justice Department Will Target Affirmative Action

Trump administration plans to investigate and sue colleges and universities over admissions practices

A bombshell report in The New York Times Tuesday night revealed that the U.S. Justice Department plans to investigate and sue colleges over their affirmative action policies in admissions.

The Times cited an internal announcement to the Justice Department's civil rights division that seeks lawyers for a project on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.”

For supporters of affirmative action in college admissions, the news was a shock. Just over a year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the admissions policies of the University of Texas at Austin, which include consideration of race and ethnicity. Many college leaders feared, prior to the decision coming down, that affirmative action was endangered. But the decision -- just three years after another Supreme Court decision upholding affirmative action -- assured many that colleges could continue to consider race in admissions.

Critics of affirmative action have never abandoned their hope that the Supreme Court might some day revisit the issue, and a new lawsuit was filed against UT just weeks ago. But the backing of the U.S. Justice Department could give that movement new strength.

Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, which opposes affirmative action, told the Times he welcomed the new campaign by the Justice Department. "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,” he said.

Advocates for diversity in higher education told Inside Higher Ed via email that they were concerned by the Justice Department's apparent new campaign.

Dan Losen, a lawyer who is director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that he found the Justice Department's action deeply distressing.

"This is another example of how the administration is dismantling the Department of Justice, turning core constitutional protections upside down and the concept of remedying discrimination on its head," he said. "What do you expect from a president that makes openly bigoted remarks about Mexican-American judges, has boasted about assaulting women, has a history of engaging in racially discriminatory housing practices and is fighting to ban entrants to our country based on their religious background? Make no mistake, the Trump administration's positions are consistent with his bigoted statements and historical track record. Further, he hired Jeff Sessions to run the DOJ despite Sessions's own horrible track record on civil rights, and over the objections of every known civil rights group and nearly half the Senate."

Indeed, when the American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity urged the U.S. Senate to oppose the nomination of Sessions as attorney general, it cited -- among other things -- a comment he made in 1997 about affirmative action. At the time, he said of affirmative action, "I think it has, in fact, been a cause of irritation and perhaps has delayed the kind of movement to racial harmony we ought to be going forward [with] today. I think it makes people unhappy if they lost a contract or a right to go to a school or a privilege to attend a university simply because of their race."

The diversity group's letter said Sessions's view distorts affirmative action in implying that colleges are accepting or rejecting candidates based on race alone. Shirley Wilcher, executive director of the association, said that she saw Tuesday's announcement as "tragic," adding that "it is our hope that this turnabout will not have a chilling effect on collegiate programs that have been supported by the Supreme Court."

Michael A. Olivas, director of director of the Institute for Higher Education Law and Governance at the University of Houston, said that "Mr. Trump's record in higher education is hardly exemplary, and his unfortunate rhetoric on racial relations has convinced many whites that they have been disadvantaged by people of color--despite all the evidence to the contrary." As for the law, he said that the Supreme Court "has ruled that modest uses of affirmative action are allowable, and that is the law of the land."

Art Coleman, managing partner of Education Counsel and the author of numerous briefs defending affirmative action in higher education, said the Justice Department shift "has the potential to be very significant." But he also noted via email that "we have strong, affirming (including recent) U.S. Supreme Court cases that embrace higher education’s diversity goals and limited race-conscious measures designed to help advance those goals. So, this is counter to recent court trends."

Nancy Cantor, chancellor of Rutgers University at Newark and co-editor of Our Compelling Interests: The Value of Diversity for Democracy and a Prosperous Society (Princeton University Press), said, "We need to keep our focus on cultivating the diverse talent in our country -- we can't be a prosperous democracy and leave the growing talent pool on the sidelines. Let's not get distracted from our social responsibility by efforts to pit groups -- we all need opportunity and we all depend on each other's talent."

And Stella M. Flores, an associate professor of higher education at New York University who has written extensively about inequality in American education, said that the Justice Department should be looking elsewhere.

"We know two key findings from educational research over the last 10 years in regard to this issue: 1) an overreliance on test scores as the key predictor of college success is a tenuous and often ineffective strategy; and 2) there are positive educational benefits of diversity to all students that extend beyond the classroom," she said. "As the nation continues to diversify at unprecedented levels and becomes more globally connected and interdependent, keeping the principle of the positive educational benefits of a diverse student body/college campus is one of the most certain strategies for ensuring the nation stays at the top of their social and economic prosperity levels. It would be more helpful to put more civil rights emphasis in examining issues of inequality in the nation’s K-12 public system, which have long-term effects on college success outcomes. This would increase the opportunity levels of all students -- from the poorest of white students in addition to other underrepresented minority students."

Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, said that the Supreme Court decision last year provided "a strong reaffirmative of carefully limited consideration of race as one among a number of factors in admitting students to selective colleges seeking the realize the extensively proven benefits of diversity."

But he also noted that the Supreme Court in a series of decisions has affirmed that right when colleges document that they have considered a range of ways to promote diversity and have evidence that some consideration of race in admissions is needed for that goal.

Said Orfield: "Colleges need to document and carefully justify their programs and the University of Texas and the University of Michigan did so successfully. For the moment this is basically a politically motivated effort to throw send in the gears and frighten colleges to end something the huge majority of selective universities believe to be a basic educational need."


Education Dept. Hits Reset on Process to Choose Student-Loan Servicer

The Education Department will cancel its current competition to select a company to service the billions of dollars in student loans it issues, and will start over, the department announced late Tuesday.

“The FSA Student Loan Program represents the equivalent of being the largest special-purpose consumer bank in the world,” said A. Wayne Johnson, chief operating officer of the Federal Student Aid office, in a news release announcing the move. “To improve customer service, we will take the best ideas and capabilities available and put them to work for Americans with student loans,” he continued. “The result will be a significantly better experience for students — our customers — and meaningful benefits for the American taxpayer.” Existing loan-servicing contracts are set to expire in 2019.

Tuesday’s announcement came just hours after a bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced legislation that would have required the department to cancel the competition and barred it from choosing a single servicer to handle its student loans. The announcement from the department, however, does not mean that possibility is off the table.

The department’s move in May to choose a single servicer for student loans drew the ire of lawmakers, consumer advocates, and industry groups, who feared it would create a situation in which a servicer “too big to fail” would dominate the sector and benefit neither taxpayers nor borrowers.

“By starting afresh and pursuing a truly modern loan-servicing environment, we have a chance to turn what was a good plan into a great one,” said the education secretary, Betsy DeVos.


'An extraordinary attempt to cook the figures': Sex therapist rubbishes reports of a rape culture at Australian universities

You'd have to be a chump to believe the hopelesly biased Australian Human Rights Commission

An Australian sex therapist has rubbished claims there was a 'rape culture' at universities across Australia.  Speaking to Andrew Bolt on The Bolt Report on Tuesday night, Bettina Arndt said the figures were 'cooked'.

The Human Rights Commission released a report on Tuesday suggesting 51 per cent of Australian university students were sexually harassed last year.

Ms Arndt said the figures were manipulated and exaggerated the issue.  'If we're talking about being stared at in a way you don't like, I mean it's not so surprising,' she said.

'These are self-selected students who've been encouraged to fill in this survey by a campaign that's lasted for years trying to persuade people there's a rape crisis on campus.'

Ms Arndt, author of The Sex Diaries, said the results did more to disprove there was a rape culture. 'These people who object to being stared at - what most people regard as a very mild form of harassment – they failed dismally to produce any evidence of a rape culture on campus,' she said.

'I think it's a wonderful news story Andrew.'

The sex therapist and clinical psychologist said 'there's been an extraordinary attempt to cook the figures in any way they can'.

The 'Change the Course' Australian Human Rights Commission survey released figures claiming 'women are almost twice as likely as men to be harassed and more than three times as likely to be assaulted'.

The survey was commissioned by Universites Australia after claims institutions were covering up victims' claims. Results came from more than 30,000 students across 39 universities.

Students from the Canberra university participated in a protest after the results were released, wearing black masking tape across their faces and holding banners.  


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