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Editorial: Ending affirmative action sets us back

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Editorial: Ending affirmative action sets us back

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center reached an agreement with the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Division on Tuesday to end the school’s consideration of race in the admissions process.

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center reached an agreement with the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Division on Tuesday to end the school’s consideration of race in the admissions process.

Image via Elred | Wikimedia Commons

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center reached an agreement with the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Division on Tuesday to end the school’s consideration of race in the admissions process.

Image via Elred | Wikimedia Commons

Image via Elred | Wikimedia Commons

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center reached an agreement with the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Division on Tuesday to end the school’s consideration of race in the admissions process.

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

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Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center reached an agreement with the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Division on Tuesday to end the school’s consideration of race in the admissions process. The change is the first time President Donald Trump’s administration has pushed a school to end this practice since it began efforts last year to chip away at affirmative action policies.

Though the agreement is the first of its kind, it’s far from the first step the Trump administration has taken to erode affirmative action. The Trump administration has also tried targeting affirmative action policies by rescinding Obama-era policy on how schools can consider race to promote a diverse student body.

The elimination of Texas Tech’s affirmative action policy and the suggestion that similar tactics could be pursued against other schools mark a serious step back in addressing systemic inequalities within student admissions. Affirmative action policies are in compliance with Supreme Court rulings and play an important role in ensuring the systemic challenges faced by marginalized communities are diminished.

The move to end race consideration comes despite Texas Tech Systems Vice Chancellor and General Counsel Eric Bentley writing he believed Texas Tech was “in compliance” with a 2016 Supreme Court decision that established affirmative action standards. The school acquiesced to the Trump administration’s demands “in an effort to resolve this matter and focus on educating future health care professionals.”

Texas Tech’s use of affirmative action had beneficial effects on the makeup of its medical students. Hispanic enrollment went from 9% in the class that entered in 2004 to 16% in 2018 as part of a broader effort by the university to recruit more Hispanic students while sending more students to practice medicine in underserved communities. The elimination of these positive steps will only hinder progress for minority students while making medicine more difficult to access throughout diverse communities.

“In the larger context of this administration’s civil rights record, it’s clear that this is yet another attack on education equity,” Jin Hee Lee, senior deputy director of litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., said to The New York Times. “We will continue to take steps to protect efforts aimed at improving education equity throughout the country.”

Affirmative action is not a perfect policy. It is a Band-Aid on systemic inequalities that are pervasive throughout student admissions processes. But eliminating affirmative action will only set us back even further.

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Editorial: Ending affirmative action sets us back