Obama administration reverses Bush policy on affirmative action


Affirmative action, the policy designed to assist historically under-represented minority groups and women with access to university admissions, has received an important boost from the Obama administration.

On Friday, the Department of Education jointly with the Department of Justice issued a new Guidance on the Voluntary use of Race to Achieve Diversity in Post-secondary Education.

The new guidelines reverse anti-affirmative action policies adopted by the Bush administration that forbad any use of "quotas"  emphasizing instead so called "race neutral solutions."

"Post-secondary institutions can voluntarily consider race to further the compelling interest of achieving diversity," says the guidelines.

Bush's rule stressed limitations on the use of affirmative action. By way of contrast the Obama policy opens the door of possibility again to achieving diversity by considering race and ethnicity as one of several considerations in admissions. In this regard the New York Times writes, "The guidelines focus on the wiggle room in the court decisions."

In place of the Bush measures, which resulted in a steep drop in minority admissions in top universities, with the new framework "the Obama administration has aligned itself strongly with the right of colleges to consider race and ethnicity in admissions decisions," writes Inside Higher Education.

Dr. Gerald Horne, author of Reversing Discrimination: The Case for Affirmative Action,  said the Obama policy "is a step back from the precipice to which Bush (and the high court) led us. It is a significant step forward, particularly given the political constraints."

In 2003, the Supreme Court in rulings involving the University of Michigan, rolled back the use of race and ethnicity.

Now, the Department of Education and the Justice Department say that universities seeking diversity may include consideration of high schools attended, including cases in which the class population is mostly minority, mentoring programs aimed at minority students, and high schools who partner with historically black colleges, among other factors.

While acknowledging the use of some race neutral admissions programs, the new policy  says schools need not be bound by them. "Institutions are not required to implement race-neutral approaches if, in their judgment, the approaches would be unworkable," the guidelines argue. The document continues, "In some cases, race-neutral approaches will be unworkable because they will be ineffective to achieve the diversity the institution seeks. Institutions may also reject approaches that would require them to sacrifice a component of their educational mission or priorities (e.g., academic selectivity)."

The Supreme Court may hear a new challenge to affirmative action at the University of Texas in the spring, placing it in the middle of the presidential election campaign.

Photo: Creative Commons 2.0

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  • Affirmative Action should only be acceptable when it provides equality for educational or job selection and promotion. It should NEVER be used, as it is, for preferential education or job applicant selection or promotion. As for veterans, since the military enrollment is now completely voluntary, and discharge from the services is at the discretion of the individual, I can't really see where special preferential treatment applies. In my day, it was different since we were subjected to the draft, which in some cases meant the disruption of a career in a chosen field of endeavor.

    Posted by Leemart, 12/09/2011 12:36am (4 years ago)

  • Well society discriminates against folks based on their native intellegence in all walks of life. So do we lower the standards so below average individuals can get into Law,Engineering,Medical or other Professional Schools?I discussed entrance requirements with a Dental School Professor. He told me all of his candidates were equally qualified and he could throw darts at pictures to select his candidates.
    If all candidates have to take an entrance exam then all that pass are qualified. If an institution then decides on a % mix for their students they are justified in the selection process but alas they discriminate.
    If an individual fails to get into a college,acquire a job or obtain a promotion due to a subjective evaluation they are being discriminated against based on a biased opinion of the evaluator. If they take an objective examination and someone scores higher then the loser is discriminated against in the process.
    That is life and there will never be a true "Fair Way". Someone looses in all forms of evaluations.

    Posted by chuckwagoncharlie, 12/06/2011 4:25pm (4 years ago)

  • The extremist and right wing misrepresentation and legal promulgation of an "affirmative action"policy designed to continue racist, gender and class discrimination, has been long exposed by progressive thinkers and activist jurists. Simultaneously, mainstream media, with its monopolies and bizarre racist imagery and "logic"of its racist and misogynist anecdotes, in most cases, ignoring the positions of the Urban League, the NAACP, La Raza, sowing confusion on the issue to thwart the universal helpfulness of anti-racist legal, social, and political policy-and its advocates.
    Of course, the Obama administration comes out of an anti-racist, reasonable, relatively transparent affirmative action tradition, with a pro-labor bent-this has to be supported and applauded. Especially so, since we are emerging from the deception and lies of John Birch and KKK versions of "affirmative action" of Reagan and Bushes-wherein Negroes"minding their business"can avoid the "affirmative action"of being drug to death from pick-up trucks, tied by rope. Yes, African Americans, women and communist who challenge the Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul version of "affirmative action"should mind the location of ropes.
    Lauding the turnabout from Bush, progressives and communists urge an affirmative action in a massive unionization and labor upgrading, promoting women, Latinos, African Americans and especially immigrant Latinos who could supply good help in establishing a bi-lingual population who would position its self to help the whole hemisphere escape want and poverty and achieve a just and powerful economic health, in line with the great struggles and sacrifices of the poor and super-exploited and repressed workers.
    We need a massive affirmative action and anti-poverty Department in tandem with EFCA in federal government.
    We need this in coordination with a reasonable, fair immigration policy toward all American families, especially African American, Native American, and Latino American families.
    As our Gerald Horne would agree, we not not only to stop discrimination: we need reverse it, and correct it for history, and forever.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 12/06/2011 10:48am (4 years ago)

  • Affirmative action is routinely treated as "reverse discrimination" in the political and media mainstream. But there is one exception -- when it comes to veterans. Hardly any news media or elected official would publicly oppose measures that give preference to veterans in hiring and other areas (housing, etc.). Yet the same arguments should apply. With few job openings available, if a veteran gets the job because of preferential treatment, it means a non-veteran, possibly more qualified, is discriminated against and cheated out of the job.

    Of course, there are arguments in favor of affirmative action for veterans, including the possibility that veterans bring qualities to the job that are not evident in "objective" tests, and society's stake in recognizing the contributions made by veterans. These and other arguments are implicit, and often explicit, in any discussion of affirmative action for veterans.

    There are parallel and equally valid arguments in favor of affirmative action for racial and national minorities, or for women. But those never form the context of mainstream discussions.

    It seems that progressive policies including affirmative action, socialized medicine, widely available subsidized childcare, quality integrated public schools, and federally-funded jobs programs are only acceptable when associated with the U.S. military. How ironic!

    Posted by Art Perlo, 12/05/2011 11:35pm (4 years ago)

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