Texas Tech University's medical school will no longer consider race as a factor in admissions, as part of an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education.
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center officials signed the agreement in February, but it was first reported this week by the Wall Street Journal.
As part of the agreement, medical school officials agreed to direct their admissions committee to stop considering applicants' race or national origin during the admission process. The medical school also agreed to update its admissions and recruitment materials to reflect the change by Sept. 1.
The agreement stems from a 2005 complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights against Texas Tech and its medical school by the Center for Equal Opportunity, a Virginia-based think tank that opposes race-based admissions policies in higher education. Officials dismissed the think thank's complaint against the four-year university after it updated its admissions policy to remove racial preferences but continued the investigation into the medical school.
The agreement comes after Trump administration officials announced last year they would rescind Obama-era guidelines dictating how colleges and universities should use race as a factor in their admissions policies.
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In a 2016 decision in the higher education admissions case Fisher v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that colleges and universities may use race as a factor in their admissions policies as long as that practice can withstand strict scrutiny — in other words, those institutions must be able to show that they couldn't have diverse campuses without including race in their admissions policies.
In a letter to the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights dated Feb. 26, Eric Bentley, chief legal counsel for the Texas Tech University System, said that university officials were confident they could prove the medical school's admissions policy could withstand strict scrutiny. Still, officials were willing to agree to discontinue the policy "in an effort to resolve this matter and focus on educating future health care providers."
In a statement, Suzanna Cisneros, a spokeswoman for the medical school, said officials there will consider "holistic alternatives" for promoting diversity in its student body.
"The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine is committed to a diverse and inclusive medical education and experience while working collaboratively with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights," Cisneros said. "The school focuses on providing a core foundational value of including the diverse cultures, lifestyles, personal beliefs and ideas of all those we serve."