Officials at Minnesota’s public universities defended their efforts to diversify their campuses Wednesday, saying they’re unlikely to be affected by the Trump administration’s new campaign against affirmative action.
“We feel very strongly that we’re doing the right thing,” said Heidi Meyer, executive director of admissions at the University of Minnesota. “We don’t see any concerns.”
On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that the U.S. Justice Department will shift resources from its civil rights division to investigate college affirmative-action policies that discriminate against white students.
But Meyer said the U has long followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s affirmative-action guidelines, which allow race to be considered as one factor in the admissions process.
“We look at a variety of different factors, one of which is race,” she said. “But there’s no one deciding factor.”
The idea that white students are discriminated against drew derision around the U campus, where racial minorities make up 18 percent of the student body, slightly less than the minority population statewide.
“Typical Trump,” said Lorraine Cousin, who is black and works in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. “It certainly shouldn’t be what he’s focusing on right now.”
Briana Preimesberger, an Indian-American aerospace engineering student, said she wasn’t surprised by the news. “When you think of the Trump administration, you think white males,” she said. At the same time, she said she could sympathize with the frustration. “I do think there are a lot of people that are deserving of opportunity that miss out ... because they are part of a majority,” she said.
Ron Anderson, senior vice chancellor of the Minnesota State college and university system, said his schools had nothing to fear from the Trump initiative. The two-year colleges are open to anyone with a high school diploma, he said, and the four-year universities don’t consider race in admissions. “It really is a nonissue for us,” he said. In all, 24 percent of Minnesota State students are people of color.
At the same time, the colleges and universities have spent years trying to improve access to students of color, he said. “If anything, we are deepening our commitment,” he said. “For the state of Minnesota and our future workforce, diversifying our student body is critical.”
Meyer, of the U, agreed. “I will say that the U remains committed to a diverse learning environment for our students,” she said. It’s the best way, she said, to prepare them to be part “of a diverse workforce in a global economy.”
Staff writer Sarah Jarvis contributed to this report.