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ED, DOJ Release Guidance on Using Race to Achieve Diversity on College Campuses

September 30, 2013

Graduating student

Q&A Follows Recent Supreme Court Decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin

​The departments of Education (ED) and Justice (DOJ) have released a new Q&A guidance document that provides colleges and universities with information about the recent Supreme Court ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin and outlines the Obama administration’s position on the use of race to achieve diversity on college campuses.

In a complex ruling handed down in June, the court agreed with the higher education community that diversity on college campuses offers unique educational benefits to students and is a compelling government interest.

The guidance explains that colleges and universities can pursue that interest in their admissions programs if they do so in lawful ways; that is, if race is considered as one of several factors and as long as race-neutral alternatives would not sufficiently achieve the goal of diversity.

The document was released at a Sept. 27 panel discussion at the Department of Justice, “Creating and Supporting Diversity in Higher Education,” which was moderated by ACE General Counsel Ada Meloy.

“It was a welcome invitation to help the administration highlight that diversity in higher education remains an essential national priority, as ACE has emphasized. We were gratified by the standing room only turnout and will share the link to the video when it is made available,” Meloy noted.

Participating in the discussion were Catherine E. Lhamon, ED assistant secretary for civil rights; Jocelyn Samuels, DOJ’s acting assistant attorney general for civil rights; Martha Kanter, ED’s under secretary of education; and Philip Rosenfelt, ED’s general counsel. Nancy Cantor, chancellor of Syracuse University (NY), and Marvin Krislov, president of Oberlin College (OH), also joined the panel.

In 2011, the departments issued Guidance on the Voluntary Use of Race to Achieve Diversity in Postsecondary Education and the related Guidance on the Voluntary Use of Race to Achieve Diversity and Avoid Racial Isolation in Elementary and Secondary Schools. Both guidance documents remain in effect after the Fisher decision.

Also see: 

Colleges May Keep Race-Conscious Admissions 'With Care,' U.S. Officials Say
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Diverse: Issues In Higher Education
Inside Higher Ed 

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