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SPLC statement: Diversity in education benefits all

We are deeply disappointed in the Trump administration’s decision today to move forward in rescinding a set of Obama-era policies that permit the consideration of race in college admissions decisions.

This is a serious blow to diversity in education.

It’s just the latest in the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to make our nation’s colleges and universities less safe and less tolerant for all students, an approach that will harm all of us in the long run.

Instead of valuing diversity, this administration has filed briefs in several important cases, arguing, among other things, that campus policies intended to protect students from hate and harassment are unconstitutional. The Trump administration is waging an ongoing battle against the values of diversity and respect in institutions of higher learning.

Diversity in our institutions of higher learning enriches all of us. It increases the opportunities for many talented minority students who face numerous economic and social barriers in life. Breaking down racial barriers helps us overcome prejudice and understand each other better.

What’s more, exposing all students to each other’s perspectives improves our ability to succeed in an increasingly complex and globalized world. Learning in diverse settings strengthens America’s civic life, and provides real academic and economic benefit to all. More than ever before, colleges and universities must prepare the students of today to succeed in our integrated, diverse society.

Creating learning environments rich with multiculturalism and diversity is not just an ideal. It is essential to building a just and tolerant democracy. The Supreme Court has long recognized that diversity benefits students both as individuals and as members of our national and global community.

Further, studies show that following these legal obligations has a real benefit to students of all backgrounds: Different perspectives and life experiences in the classroom elevate our discourse and sharpen students’ analytical skills.

The guidance documents issued by the Obama administration’s Department of Justice and Department of Education – guidances which the Trump administration is now planning to rescind – were written to help colleges and universities meet their legal obligations. They were also written to provide these institutions with legally permissible tools to meet the goal of building vibrant, tolerant classrooms for all.

These guidances did not require colleges and universities to use any particular method to achieve those ends. They simply explained the options that were available to higher learning institutions, and allowed them to choose what best fit their needs.

Rescinding these guidances makes a powerful statement: The Trump administration simply does not care what the law allows. This administration would rather use its bully pulpit to tell millions of young people who value diversity on their campuses that their government does not share their values and does not respect their goals.

Rather than working to promote inclusive and tolerant schools across the country, the Trump administration is pushing to close not only doors, but also hearts and minds, to the importance of learning from peers of all backgrounds.