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EDITORIAL: No justice in DOJ project
Talk about misplaced priorities.
According to multiple reports this week, the Department of Justice is gearing up to investigate and possibly sue colleges and universities if it determines their affirmative action policies discriminate against — are you sitting down? — white applicants.
The move would be a monumental leap backward for civil rights — to say nothing of common sense — by the Trump administration and its attorney general, Jeff Sessions.
The initiative is reportedly being set up in the DOJ Civil Rights Division’s front office, after career lawyers in the Educational Opportunities Section — which normally oversees cases involving universities — scoffed at the plan. In fact, the Civil Rights Division is advertising for lawyers willing to take part in the project.
It is just the latest example of the administration’s seeming insistence that government agencies undermine the very interests they were created to serve:
- The Education Department has moved to slash public school funding.
- The Environmental Protection Agency is overseen by a climate change denier who seeks to undermine scientific study of the issue.
- The Department of Health and Human Services uses public funds aimed at encouraging participation in the Affordable Care Act to instead discourage enrollment.
- And now, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division is preparing to take steps that would reverse civil rights protections.
For the record: The Supreme Court has ruled, as recently as just last year, that race can be one of many factors considered by colleges and universities in determining admittance. The justices have repeatedly cited the educational benefits of a diverse campus.
So while race may be among the factors considered, it is not to be the sole factor — which would seem to negate the need for the new Department of Justice initiative. Also negating that need: the dearth of evidence that such practices harm white applicants.
It’s hard to avoid the suspicion that the DOJ is taking a page out of the book of President Donald Trump’s Advisory Commission on Elections Integrity: Using a non-existent problem (voter fraud/discrimination against whites) as an excuse to justify an unadmitted goal (suppressing minority votes/undermining diversity in higher education).
Aside from the efforts on voting rights, the administration also has taken steps backward on LGBTQ rights and holding troubled police departments accountable in the wake of controversial shootings.
In other words, it is building a lamentable record on civil rights.
That record will only be further stained by charging the DOJ to actively pursue cases against colleges over questionable claims of discrimination. The project would be a waste of taxpayer dollars, a misdirection of Justice Department resources, and an insult to all who support the continuing fight for true civil rights.