Under Pressure, Texas Tech Medical School Ends Racial Considerations in Admissions

by | April 10, 2019 AT 7:40 AM

By Ralph K.M. Haurwitz

Under pressure from the Trump administration, the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock is no longer considering the race and national origin of applicants seeking admission to its School of Medicine.

Health Sciences President Tedd Mitchell, who is also chancellor of the Texas Tech University System, signed an agreement in February with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights to resolve a 2004 complaint and the office's subsequent investigation. The agreement, which took effect March 1, does not apply to the medical school at Tech's Health Sciences Center in El Paso.

The agreement, first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, marks the first time the Trump administration has asked a school to dial back its use of affirmative action and could presage more such efforts. Under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the Office for Civil Rights is investigating the use of race in admissions at Harvard and Yale universities, focusing on whether Asian American applicants face discrimination. Conservative activists have long sought to end racial and ethnic considerations in various aspects of public policy.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2016 in Fisher v. the University of Texas that the Austin flagship's consideration of race passed legal muster because it is narrowly tailored to achieve the educational benefits of diversity. Eric D. Bentley, Texas Tech System vice chancellor and general counsel, told the Education Department in a letter accompanying the resolution agreement that the Health Sciences Center's use of race complies with the Fisher standard. But the center agreed to sign "in an effort to resolve this matter and focus on educating future health care providers," he wrote.

Race-neutral alternatives will be explored to enhance diversity, but if that doesn't work the center will provide the required notice to the Office for Civil Rights that it plans to resume racial considerations, Bentley said. The School of Pharmacy discontinued affirmative action in 2008, and Texas Tech University did so in 2013 for undergraduate admissions.

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