In this afternoon's Chronicle of Higher Education:
The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights has aroused the ire of at least one leading civil-rights group by telling colleges receiving federal aid that they may not consider race in admissions unless it is “essential” to their “mission and stated goals.”
The advice to colleges came in a letter of guidance sent to them by Stephanie J. Monroe, the department’s assistant secretary for civil rights, late last month. The letter represents the first attempt by the federal civil-rights office to tell colleges how it will interpret the U.S. Supreme Court’s last major rulings on the use of affirmative action in college admissions, its 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger decisions involving the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
The new letter also tells colleges that the diversity they seek “must be broader than mere racial diversity,” that “quotas are impermissible,” and that “providing individualized consideration is paramount and there must be no undue burden on other-race applicants.” In addition, it says, colleges must give “serious good-faith consideration” to race-neutral alternatives before using race in admissions, and the use of race “must have a logical end point.”