Justice Department: Diversity trumps 1964 anti-discrimination law

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The Justice Department is telling university administrators they can grant valuable university slots to people in favored races and ethnic groups.

The department’s legal advice, announced late on Friday, says “race can be outcome determinative for some participants in some circumstances,” when administrators are weighing who gets acceptance letters from private and government-funded universities.

But the letter also highlights advocates’ growing worries about a pending Supreme Court decision that could ban the use of race in awarding university slots.

More importantly, the court could also damage the idea of “diversity” that progressives have used in universities and politics to attack conservative ideas and conservative political clout.

The 10-page report argues that diversity in the classroom is so important to universities that its trumps the plain language of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars from discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin.

The report was issued by the social-regulation divisions of the justice and education departments. It is titled “Guidance on the voluntary use of race to achieve diversity in postsecondary education.”

Proponents of diversity in education say all students’ education is improved when they meet a variety of ideas, but the variety can only be achieved when classrooms include “a critical mass” from approved racial and ethnic groups.

The two agencies’ Friday letter is also a warning-shot to the Supreme Court, which is now considering whether to get involved in a Texas lawsuit against the University of Texas at Austin. The lawsuit was filed by Abigail Fisher, who was denied entrance to the University of Texas, and now seeks to end the use of race and diversity in allocating university slots.

If the Supreme Court does decide to consider the case, it might extend its 2007 decision that restricted the role of diversity in high schools, and apply the decision to universities.

If the court decides to extend the 2007 ruling, it will effectively bury decades of its decisions about race and affirmative action in universities. The buried decisions could include a controversial 2003 decision that allowed universities to continue using race, alongside many other factors, in acceptance deliberations.

Critics say that when race can legally be considered, it sometimes becomes the deciding factor.

But the stakes are far higher than the allocation of some university slots to racial minorities.

That’s because progressive advocates have also used the notion of diversity to reshape university courses, hiring decisions, staffing levels and budget priorities in their favor.

For example, before diversity, many undergraduate students were required to take broad courses on American history, Western civilization, or famous philosophers.

By and large, those course have been dropped in favor of a smorgasbord of niche courses taught by many niche experts, some of whom are hired because of their race or ethnic background, not their academic or teaching expertise. That trend drives up university staffing levels and students’ bills, and sidelines older notions of academic rigor.

The trend in universities also bolsters progressive advocates’ promotion of diversity in politics.

In politics, their ideology of diversity says the legal rights of favored minority groups trump that of mainstream majorities, and that new ideas should supplant popular, evolved social ideas, such as color-blind law enforcement.

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