ACE Calls on Senate to Ask Kavanaugh About Race-conscious Admissions Policies
Published: September 04, 2018

As the Senate Judiciary Committee began its consideration of Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, ACE President Ted Mitchell called on the committee to query the nominee about his views on race-conscious admissions policies at the nation’s colleges and universities. 

In a letter to Committee Chair Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the committee’s ranking member, Mitchell emphasized 40 years of judicial deference to higher education institutions’ ability to define for themselves, within broad limits, the diversity that will produce the educational benefits they seek for all their students, and to use their admission processes to further that goal.

“There are many important benefits that flow to students placed in diverse settings, from better learning outcomes to greater cross-racial understanding that helps to break down stereotypes,” Mitchell wrote. “All of this ultimately helps produce students well-equipped to navigate a nation more diverse, and a world more interconnected, than ever before. In turn, it helps our nation compete and succeed on the global stage.”

The retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy leaves the Supreme Court without what has been a key swing vote on diversity in admissions policies. These policies now have been in effect for four decades: This summer marked the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s first decision in this arena, Bakke v. University of California

The Trump administration this summer rescinded a number of Obama-era guidance documents that outlined how colleges and universities can consider race as a factor in diversifying their campuses, a move Mitchell said at the time sent “precisely the wrong message to institutions that are committed to following four decades of Supreme Court precedent.”

The “Dear Colleague” letter reversed seven Obama administration policy guidelines pertaining to elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education, which the Trump administration believes “advocate policy preferences and positions beyond the requirements of the Constitution.” That decision returned the government’s official stance to the race-neutral policies of the George W. Bush era, issued in 2008.  

However, the guidance does not carry the legal weight of court rulings or legislation approved by Congress and enacted into law.

For updates on the hearing, see The New York Timeslive briefing page