Diversity at Stake in Kavanaugh Hearings - Higher Education
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Diversity at Stake in Kavanaugh Hearings

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I hope you don’t think the Senate hearings over U.S. Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh is just about reversing Roe v. Wade, and the right to choose.

That’s one big issue, for sure. But Kavanaugh’s nomination is about institutionalizing the trend at the highest court to reverse everything that makes American society coincide with a sense of racial diversity and fairness.

Kavanaugh would be the deciding vote in a 5-4 reversal of modern American life as issues come before the court. For higher education, it goes right to the core of diversity and what we do about making higher education a reality for all people.

Right now, it’s legal to consider race in admissions. It’s the law of the land, and no matter how much diversity advocates want to beleive it’s settle law, it’s not.

Not when zealots can file suit against Harvard and threaten how race can be used in admissions by every school in the land.

That’s why the Justice Department official support of the suit against Harvard over how it admits Asian Americans last Friday was significant; that’s even though the department had already tipped its hand in July when it erased Obama Administration guidance on affirmative action from all official websites.

It was back during another long holiday weekend, when all the bad stuff gets dumped.

The Trump administration issued the memo that tells colleges and universities to stick to race-neutral policies.

“The Departments have reviewed the documents and have concluded that they advocate policy preferences and positions beyond the requirements of the Constitution, Title IV and Title VI,”  the letter reads. “Moreover, the documents prematurely decide, or appear to decide, whether particular actions violate the Constitution or federal law.”

So what happens if Harvard wins its suit and turns back the administration, and all opponents of the use of race and the policy more commonly referred to as Affirmative Action?

Then, the case goes before the Supreme Court and if a certain Justice Kavanaugh is sitting there, it could mean the end of using race constructively to make diversity a reality in higher ed.

Race-neutral could mean disaster. As some groups that filed amicus briefs last week suggested, such a move could actually hurt all people of color and benefit white students.

And that’s why it’s important that everything be known about Kavanaugh going into the hearings.

The Republicans dump of 40,000 documents just prior to the hearing is a disgrace.

The Senate should have the opportunity to fully review the record, not just to see what a rehearsed Kavanaugh would say with his future on the line at the hearings. Will he be honest with the American people?  A review of all the documents would be more helpful. And yet Republicans wouldn’t consider even a slight delay to review the last dump, not to mention the tens of thousands of other documents that the White House, in an unprecedented move, chose to withhold.

There’s lot of political games going on here, because the vote on Kavanaugh is closer than we think.

Just two Republicans have to cross over to join a full slate of Democrats to defeat Kavanaugh.

The two Republicans most point to are Sen. Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, and Sen. Susan Collins from Maine. But the Democrats have to keep their members in line and the five senators from tough swing states don’t give confidence (Sen. Joe Donnelly from Indiana, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota, Sen. Joe Manchin from W. Virginia, Sen. Bill Nelson from Florida and Sen. Claire McCaskill from Missouri).

Who will do what’s right for the nation? For higher ed? For diversity?

That there was no delay at the opening. shows there’s a real willingness on the part of Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to power through.

Sen. Ted Cruz, himself fighting a strong electoral  challenge in Texas  from Democrat Beto O’Rourke, tried to make the case that Kavanaugh was pre-selected when voters backed Donald Trump in 2016. Kavanaugh was on Trump’s short list and would rule from the bench as the originators of the Constitution would.

Think of that. America was anti-Native America and anti-Black during the founders’ days. Civil rights laws weren’t passed until 175 years after the Constitution’s ratification. Now we live in a modern America, a country of immigrants, where Asians are as American as apple pie.

Not like in 1789, but surely in 2018.

Would we even count to one who believes in a strict, literal interpretation of the founders?

If Kavanaugh is to represent the narrow 5-4 margin that will determine the direction of our country in everything from a woman’s right to choose for herself, to a person of color’s right to be given the opportunity to attend the best college, we should  know all about him now.

Kavanaugh deserves the toughest scrutiny if his intent is to take us back to 1789.

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator.

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