Today, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education released new guidance that provides colleges and universities with information about the ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas-Austin, and reiterates the Departments' position on the voluntary use of race to achieve diversity in higher education. The guidance is the first time the Departments have provided policy clarification on the use of race in higher education since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June.
The guidance explains that the court preserved the well-established legal principle that colleges and universities have a compelling interest in achieving the educational benefits that flow from a racially and ethnically diverse student body and can pursue that interest in their admissions programs if they do so in lawful ways. The educational benefits of diversity, long recognized by the court and affirmed in research and practice, include cross-racial understanding and dialogue, the reduction of racial isolation and the breaking down of racial stereotypes.
"The educational benefits of diversity are critically important to the future of this nation," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in response to the Supreme Court ruling in June. "As the Court has repeatedly recognized, diverse student enrollment promotes understanding, helps to break down racial stereotypes, enables students to better understand people of different races, and prepares all students to succeed in, and eventually lead, an increasingly diverse workforce and society."
"As the Court has repeatedly recognized, a diverse student enrollment promotes cross-racial understanding and dialogue, reduces racial isolation, and helps to break down stereotypes," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in response to the Supreme Court ruling in June. "This is critical for the future of our country because racially diverse educational environments help to prepare students to succeed in an increasingly diverse workforce and society."
The Departments of Justice and Education strongly support diversity in higher education. Racially diverse educational environments help to prepare students to succeed in our increasingly diverse nation. The future workforce of America must be able to transcend the boundaries of race, language and culture as our economy becomes more globally interconnected.
In 2011, the Departments issued "Guidance on the Voluntary Use of Race to Achieve Diversity in Postsecondary Education" and the related "Guidance on the Voluntary Use of Race to Achieve Diversity and Avoid Racial Isolation in Elementary and Secondary Schools." Both guidance documents remain in effect after the Fisher decision and are available at www.ed.gov and www.usdoj.gov .
At a panel discussion this morning at the U.S. Department of Justice, higher education leaders will join Catherine E. Lhamon, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights for the U.S. Department of Education, and Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights for the U.S. Department of Justice, to discuss the new guidance, the importance of creating and supporting diversity on college campuses, and the parameters for using race in admissions as stated by the U.S. Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.
For more information about the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, please visit http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/index.html . For more information about the Educational Opportunities Section of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, please visit http://www.justice.gov/crt/edo/ .