PRINCETON, NJ (December 6, 2011)—The National Association of Scholars strongly criticized the Obama administration's new guidelines for enhancing racial diversity in college admissions. The new criteria, outlined in a fourteen-page document released on Friday under joint sponsorship of the federal education and justice departments, extol the value of a racially diverse student body and propose ways in which college and university administrators might factor race into their admissions decisions despite existing legal strictures.
NAS president Peter Wood observed, "The new guidelines represent a sharp departure from previous federal policy and on several points are unlikely to withstand judicial scrutiny. They seem to sanction common university practices which circumvent the law."
Wood, whose 2003 book, Diversity: The Invention of a Concept, is a standard work on the subject, says that the Obama administration has "adopted a highly aggressive approach aimed at making racial classification a much more salient part of college life, and of K-12 education too." The new guidelines for college were released along with a separate set of guidelines for enhancing racial diversity in elementary and secondary schools.
Wood continued, "The Departments of Education and Justice justify the new 'guidance' as an explanation of how colleges and universities can expand the use of race without running afoul of federal law. But they are very loose in their reading of Supreme Court rulings over the last decade. For example, they give college officials broad new powers to rely on their own 'judgment' for when and how to take race into account. This is contrary to the spirit of existing law."
"The Obama administration has, unfortunately, put itself on the side of higher education's 'diversicrats' who have already been engaging in racial discrimination under the pretext of pursuing diversity."
Wood alluded to the pending appeal of Fisher v. University of Texas
, a racial preference case that the Supreme Court may take up this spring (see NAS’s friend-of-the-court brief
). "We hope the Court agrees to take the case and makes clear that this new guidance is unlawful."
NAS works to improve American higher education by expanding intellectual standards, academic freedom, and institutional transparency in colleges and universities. To learn more about NAS, visit www.nas.org.