Trump administration’s affirmative action rollback will not affect CSU

Emma Iannacone

Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rescinded the Obama-era guidance documents on the issue of race in college and university admissions.

However, according to several Colorado State University officials, the federal government’s position will not affect CSU’s admission process.

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“If (universities are) following the United States Supreme Court guidance, what each administration says or doesn’t say may not even impact you,” said Diana Prieto, the Associate Vice President for Human Capital in the Office of Equal Opportunity.

The seven policies rescinded were federal guidelines on Affirmative Action, encouraging college admission offices to take race into consideration when admitting students in order to lessen the gap of underrepresented minorities earning an education. 

Specifically, the documents told colleges and universities they have “a compelling interest” in achieving diversity, but it was not required to consider race and ethnicity in the admission process.

That position changed on July 3, when Attorney General Sessions rescinded the documents, calling them improper and unnecessary, according to a news release issued by the United States Justice Department.

In response to the federal action, the Colorado Department of Higher Education issued a statement to public university and college presidents in the state saying, “the Trump administration’s guidance need not have any effect on how you direct admissions in your institution.” 

The CDHE encourages admissions offices to work toward graduating classes that reflect Colorado’s diversity, according to a memo issued to universities.

“I encourage you to think about what you can do as leaders of public institutions to make sure that we are continuing to send a clear signal to prospective students and to all Coloradans that we are proud of Colorado’s diverse population, and that we are committed to institutions that welcome and educate Coloradans from all backgrounds and to facing the future with unity and hope,” said Daniel Baer, the Executive Director of CDHE, in the memo to universities.

While CSU and other Colorado colleges may not be affected by the symbolic action taken by the federal government, there are many that could be.

The schools that Affirmative Action primarily affects are highly selective schools, such as Harvard University, which is currently undergoing a lawsuit involving AA.

“We are not an Affirmative Action university because we are not sufficiently selective,” Prieto said.

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While Affirmative Action has been around since the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, there have been a slew of Supreme Court cases setting new precedents for interpreting the laws and policies.

With more lawsuits looming and Justice Anthony Kennedy’s replacement advancing, it is unclear what the next standard will be for AA. Whatever the next move by the Supreme Court, CSU’s commitment to diversity seems unwavering.

In the end, what matters is the university’s commitment to diversity and how they choose to champion it, Prieto said.

“Diversity and inclusion is important to us, it is a piece of our excellence, and it is a piece of our success,” Prieto said.

Oscar Felix, the Vice President for Diversity at CSU, said each incoming freshman class has increased its number

Percentage of First-Generation Status | CSU office of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness

s of first-generation students. Almost one in four people entering CSU is a first generation student, according to SOURCE.

However, unlike other diversity trends, students with first-generation status were 22 percent in 2017, the lowest it has been since Fall 2010.

In fact, according to the Office of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness, CSU’s incoming first years have continued to grow in numbers and diversity for the past few years. The class of 2021 includes 1,366 ethnically diverse students, which makes up about 27.2 percent of the class

Percentage of minority students over ten years | CSU office of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness

“I feel that at Colorado State University… we’re living our ethos of being the university of the state of Colorado by bringing it a diverse population,” said Felix.

Collegian news reporter Emma Iannacone can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @EmmaIannacone.