A Thursday guest column at a Conservative website, written by an anti-
affirmative-action activist, predicts that the Office for Civil Rights at the US Department of
Education will fight affirmative action in Texas colleges and universities.
report is remarkable for its well-embedded Republican-party sources. It was posted at USAGOP.Com and
written by a senior fellow from the Center for Equal Opportunity, Edward Blum.
report suggests a chilling answer to one of the mysteries in Texas higher education these days: Where
is the OCR and why are they saying nothing about Texas A&M’s announcement last month that it would
reject affirmative action in admissions at two of its predominately white campuses?
Blum column is shocking for its suggestion that OCR will speak out in opposition to affirmative action
plans at the University of Texas at Austin.
As Blum argues, “President Bush personally
–as governor and as president–and the rest of his administration have strongly supported the use of
race-neutral means to achieve diversity. Indeed, they have pointed to the system UT was using–and now
wants to reject–as a model approach.”
Blum’s report fails to mention that Bush made
written promises to OCR while he was Governor, that Texas higher education would augment where possible
its efforts to de-segregate predominantly white campuses, such as the University of Texas at Austin and
the Texas A&M University campuses at College Station and Galveston.
And Blum does not
address what OCR’s relationship might be to upholding the current context of constitutional
When Bush was Governor, Texas was living under the influence of the Hopwood
decision, which was widely enforced as a prohibition against affirmative action in college admissions
for the state of Texas.
But Governor Bush was also party to an ongoing de-segregation
plan, and he made written promises, called the “Texas Commitment,” during the Summer of
Partly because of the Hopwood ruling, the implementation plan of the “Texas
Commitment” focused on rectifying long-standing neglect of historical black campuses in Texas, at
Prairie View and Texas Southern Universities.
Yet, the “Texas Commitment” by Gov. Bush
promised that Texas would operate within the complex context of constitutional case law and would
augment its efforts wherever possible to integrate predominantly white
Meanwhile, the state’s top lawyer for Texas higher education has been
advising admissions officers about constitutional criteria for affirmative action that were created by
the Supreme Court in the Grutter ruling of Summer 2003.
Blum’s column raises questions
about the kind of civil rights logic that would be used to wield the power of OCR in opposition to
adoption of a constitutional affirmative-action program, especially in the context of a “Texas
Commitment” that was solicited by OCR in the first place.
But Blum’s column also
suggests that a larger political agenda might help explain Texas A&M’s announcement that it would not
take up the Grutter ruling as its guide.
I choose the term “announcement” rather than
“decision” because nothing about race or affirmative action was ratified in writing at the widely-
reported meeting of the Board of Regents last December. It came as a complete surprise to state
regulators, legislators, and civil rights organizations. And it is not yet clear how the policy was
percolated up through the decision-making structures at the College Station
Furthermore, Blum’s political analysis fails to note that the top ten percent
plan may have turned out to be even more contentious among Texas voters than affirmative
In a recent comment to El Paso reporter Darren Meritz, Texas state Senator Jeff
Wentworth, a San Antonio REPUBLICAN, said, “There are a lot of problems with the Top 10 Percent rule,
and it needs to be repealed.” Sen. Wentworth, suggested that the restoration of affirmative action
would eliminate the need to impose the widely-studied race-neutral attempt to achieve racial diversity,
that was invented as an antidote to Hopwood.
Sen. Wentworth’s suggestion during an
election year may offer Democrats a chance to argue that affirmative action is actually less divisive
and more precise than the so-called race-neutral percentage plan.
Meanwhile today at the
University of Texas campus, a new report calls for some legislative relief from the percentage
And UT President Larry Faulkner surrounded himself today with diversity allies
from across the nation for a two-day diversity symposium. Please stay tuned to Texas, where the future
of civil rights is on the line.