The Trump administration on Tuesday ordered Texas Tech University to stop considering the race of applicants when making admissions decisions.
The order, which was handed down by the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Division, represents the culmination of a 14-year legal battle based on an agreement with the university that was reached in February, the Wall Street Journal first reported.
This is the first instance in which the administration has ordered a university to adjust its admissions criteria to reflect its interpretation of anti-discrimination law, which is narrower than the Obama administration’s was.
“This shows the Trump administration is taking seriously its responsibility to enforce civil rights in a way that protects all Americans,” Roger Clegg, general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, an anti-affirmation-action advocacy group, told the Journal. “The more schools that don’t use racial preferences, the harder it is for the remaining schools to justify their use of it.”
While Texas Tech previously ended affirmative action in its pharmacy-school and undergraduate admissions processes, its medical school has continued to factor race into admissions, citing the importance of producing a racially diverse class of doctors who would be better-suited to serve different communities.
The Trump administration’s lawyers, however, argued that the school must study whether other factors, including socioeconomic background and language abilities, might better contribute to overall diversity.
“The Supreme Court has clarified that the academic judgment as to the educational benefits that exist from a diverse student body is entitled to some, but not complete, judicial deference,” Education Department officials wrote to Texas Tech in a March letter obtained by the Journal.
The Tuesday order is the latest in a series of moves designed to correct what Trump administration officials believe was an overly permissive stance toward affirmative action on the part of the Obama administration. It comes after the Department of Education in July revoked Obama-era guidelines that instructed universities to consider race in their admissions processes in order to achieve greater campus diversity.
The Department of Justice has also filed a brief in support of a coalition of Asian Americans who sued Harvard for holding their community to higher admissions standards in the name of racial diversity. The Department of Justice is currently investigating whether Harvard discriminated against Asians.