Nominee for Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights May Face Opposition from Affirmative Action Advocates
President Bush’s new choice to head the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is an African American who has conservatives’ support but who may face opposition from groups that favor affirmative action.
Bush in late June nominated Gerald Reynolds, senior regulatory counsel at a Midwest utility company, to head OCR, which monitors and investigates civil rights issues for the department. Prior to joining Kansas City Power and Light in 1998, Reynolds served as president of the Center for New Black Leadership and as a legal analyst for the Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO), a Washington group that is a vocal critic of affirmative action in college admissions.
Reynolds could not be reached for comment, and the White House offered no details on the nominee’s civil rights views. However, Dr. Roderick Paige, Education Secretary, praised the selection in a written statement.
“Gerry Reynolds will be working with me and the department to offer American children equal access to a quality education at all levels. His experience will strengthen our ability to make certain that all of our classrooms are safe and productive atmospheres for learning.”
A representative from the Center for New Black Leadership also endorsed the nomination.
“We think he’s extremely qualified, and he will follow the law,” says James Golden, a center spokesman. Golden describes the center, which Reynolds headed from 1997 to 1998, as committed to color-blind equal opportunity. “We do not believe that government should engage in discrimination against any citizen based on race, color or religion.”
The organization also believes that colleges and universities should not “discriminate against anyone” in the college admissions process.
Yet civil rights groups, while still collecting information on Reynolds, expressed concern. “His track record would lead us to believe that his appointment could be a serious problem for us,” says Paul Gonzalez, education policy analyst for the National Council of La Raza, an advocacy group based in Washington.
Reynolds’ nomination also may draw fire because of his work for the CEO, an organization that opposes affirmative action in many settings. Its president, Linda Chavez, was Bush’s first choice for labor secretary, though Chavez ultimately withdrew amid controversy about an illegal immigrant who had lived with her family.
CEO’s publications include Pervasive Preferences: Racial and Ethnic Discrimination in Undergraduate Admissions Across the Nation, which noted the large differences in academic credentials between Whites and African Americans admitted to 47 public colleges and universities. The organization also has published extensive information about admissions data at leading public colleges.
By all indications, Reynolds opposes affirmative action in college admissions, according to Gonzalez.
“He has viewpoints that would be opposed by the vast majorities of Black and Hispanic civil rights organizations.”
Reynolds’ selection also is something of a surprise, Gonzalez says, and civil rights organizations and lawmakers of color are just beginning to look at the nominee’s record, something that may take several weeks. The OCR post requires confirmation by the Democratic-controlled Senate, which also may schedule a hearing on the nomination.
Reynolds’ nomination also is drawing some concern in the Congressional Black Caucus, though members were just in the process of gathering information on his record.
“I’m not surprised (by this appointment),” says Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. President Bush “is a right-wing conservative, and he would only appoint a right-wing conservative.”
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com