The Trump Administration’s Attempts to Weaken Affirmative Action

American Oversight and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law are conducting a joint investigation into the Trump administration’s politically-driven attempts to weaken programs run by both the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Education that promote racial diversity at colleges and universities and ensure access for underrepresented minorities.


  • All communications between senior DOJ officials and Eric Dreiband (President Trump’s nominee to lead DOJ’s Civil Rights Division) relating to consideration of race in post-secondary education admissions.
  • Any list, tracking sheet, report, or other record reflecting open investigations into complaints alleging racial discrimination in post-secondary education admissions, including the institution under investigation.
  • Records related to the decision to transfer the investigation of Harvard and UNC admissions from Education to DOJ.
  • Calendar entries for meetings between Education and DOJ officials regarding affirmative action.
  • A copy of the job posting seeking lawyers interested in working on investigations and possible litigation related to the consideration of race in college and university admissions or to so-called “intentional race based discrimination” in college and university admissions.


On August 1, 2017, the New York Times reported that the Department of Justice (DOJ) “is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants.” DOJ has reportedly begun to recruit lawyers to participate in this project, including circulating an announcement to attorneys in DOJ’s Civil Rights Division describing an opportunity to work on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.”  This initiative reflects a major policy shift and makes education and access an overtly partisan, political issue.

The extent and nature of collaboration between DOJ and the Department of Education on this initiative is not yet clear, though DOJ may use data from the Department of Education to support this initiative. A partisan political agenda shouldn’t drive the federal government’s approach to civil rights and access to education, but shifts in government policy and pending lawsuits against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina make it clear that policies promoting access to equal opportunity are under siege.

American Oversight and the Lawyers’ Committee seek information to shed light on the federal government’s approach to civil rights enforcement in college and university admissions, including changes to that approach under the current administration.