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UT Will Continue To Consider Race In Admissions, Despite Trump Reversal On Obama Guidance

Martin do Nascimento

The Trump administration is rescinding Obama-era guidance to colleges and universities that encouraged schools to take a person's race into account in admissions to diversify the student population.

“When issuing regulations, federal agencies must abide by constitutional principles and follow the rules set forth by Congress and the President," U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement announcing he was withdrawing six guidance documents issued between 2011 and 2016.

"In previous administrations, however, agencies often tried to impose new rules on the American people without any public notice or comment period, simply by sending a letter or posting a guidance document on a website," he said. "That’s wrong, and it’s not good government."

The letters and memos written during the Obama administration did not have the weight of law. (A number of laws, including the Civil Rights Act, address the issue of race in school admissions; the requirements of those laws are not affected by the retraction.) Instead, the documents provided interpretations of the law and offered suggestions to schools.

Retracting the memos sends a signal about the Trump administration's priorities.

Meantime, the University of Texas at Austin said it will continue considering race as a factor in its admissions.

“The U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 affirmed UT’s efforts to enroll a diverse student body that provides educational benefits for all students," UT Austin President Greg Fenves said. "That decision upheld our holistic admissions policies which remain central to our constitutional mandate to serve the state of Texas.”

That 2016 decision upholding UT's admission policies, Fisher v. UT, was authored by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement last week.

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