According to recent reports, President Donald Trump is set to reverse the Obama-era policies promoting diversity in universities, known as affirmative action.
On July 3, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked 24 guidance documents, many involving race in schools and affirmative action recommendations.
The move comes as Harvard University faces a discrimination lawsuit alleging it limits admissions for Asian-Americans.
In 2016, the Supreme Court had ruled in favor of affirmative action.
Meanwhile, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the 2016 opinion, announced his retirement from the top Supreme Court last month.
Justice Anthony Kennedy’s departure gives President Donald Trump a chance to appoint a justice who more closely matches the administration’s views on taking race into account in college admissions.
The Trump administration is expected to tell schools not to consider race in the admissions process, discontinuing the policy former President Barack Obama adopted to promote more diversity at colleges and high schools.
Academic affirmative action, which involves favoring minorities during the admissions process in order to promote campus diversity, has long proved controversial in the US.
The lawsuit against Harvard currently filed by the Students for Fair Admissions alleges that the college holds Asian-American applicants to an unfairly high admissions standard.
The DoJ is also currently investigating Harvard over racial discrimination allegations.
In April, the DoJ called for the public disclosure of the Ivy League college’s admissions practices.
Harvard argues it “does not discriminate against applicants from any group, including Asian-Americans”.
According to the university website, Asian-Americans currently make up 22.2% of students admitted to Harvard.
The guidelines, jointly issued by the education and justice departments under President Barack Obama, encouraged universities to promote diversity on campuses.
The guidance reads: “Learning environments comprised of students from diverse backgrounds provide an enhanced educational experience for individual students.
“By choosing to create this kind of rich academic environment, educational institutions help students sharpen their critical thinking and analytical skills.”
It features ways to encourage diversity, including granting admission preferences to students from certain schools based on demographics and considering a student’s race “among other factors in its admissions procedures”.
The Obama-era policy replaced the Bush-era view that discouraged affirmative action.
The Bush-era guidance had been removed from the government website during the Obama administration, but it has since reappeared.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told the Associated Press she would not debate or discuss the matter of race and college admissions.
According to a Pew Research Center study, 71% of Americans surveyed in October 2017 have a positive view of affirmative action.
Affirmative action, or the idea that disadvantaged groups should receive preferential treatment, first appeared in President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 executive order on federal contractor hiring.
It took shape during the height of the civil rights movement, when President Lyndon Johnson signed a similar executive order in 1965 requiring government contractors to take steps to hire more minorities.
Colleges and universities began using those same guidelines in their admissions process, but affirmative action soon prompted intense debate in the decades following, with several cases appearing before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court has outlawed using racial quotas, but has allowed colleges and universities to continue considering race in admitting students.
Harvard University is planning to remove the word “master” from its academic titles following protests from students who claimed the title had echoes of slavery.
House masters, in charge of residential halls at the university, will become known as “faculty deans”.
Harvard Law School is also deciding whether to change its official seal, because of links to slavery.
Student campuses have faced a series of protests over allegations of racism.
Harvard has not accepted that the use of “master” represented a link to slavery, but it has accepted campaigners’ calls for a name change.
It will mean changing the job titles of 24 members of staff – but will not affect other uses of “master”, such as a master’s level degree.
Student campaigners are also calling for a change in the official seal of Harvard Law School, with a sit-in being held this week.
The seal includes the coat of arms of 18th Century college donor Isaac Royall, who as well as establishing the college’s first professorship in law, was a notoriously brutal slaveholder.
A decision on whether to change the seal is expected to be made soon.
Disputes about race and identity have affected many campuses.
Last month, Amherst College, in Massachusetts, accepted student demands to drop links with its informal mascot, Jeffery Amherst, an 18th Century general accused of advocating infecting Native Americans with smallpox.
The protests are part of a wider international campaign challenging historical titles, statues and emblems.
Xi Jinping has just become the most powerful military leader-elect to the most populous country in the world, and yet there are details that remain unknown about China’s new president.
While it is known is that Xi Jinping is married to the honey-voiced megastar of popular Chinese folk music, Peng Liyuan, and they have only one child together, details of their daughter’s life are few and far between.
Their 20-year-old daughter, Xi Mingze, is currently attending Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, though little is known about China’s new First Daughter.
It is believed that Xi Mingze has been studying at the Ivy League school since transferring in two years ago after going to school in China.
She studies under a pseudonym so as not to attract undue attention.
It is rumored that Xi Mingze is surrounded by a staff of Chinese bodyguards 24 hours a day.
Xi Mingze has been studying at the Ivy League school since transferring in two years ago after going to school in China
The Washington Post reported last May that Xi Mingze joined Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and is described by peers at the school as “studious and discreet”.
She often studies at the sorority house and speaks with unaccented English.
Her name, Mingze, denotes innocence and “moral probity”, Asia Time noted in 2007, speaking of how Xi Jinping’s ascent into China’s highest office could see a sort of parallel to the White House in terms of a father showing affection for his wife and children.
Xi Mingze isn’t the only progeny of China’s political leaders to attend the American institution. Bo Guagua, the only son of embattled politician Bo Xilai, also attended the institution and had a playboy “princeling” reputation while at the school.
Scientists in the US have created a free swimming artificial jellyfish using silicone as a base on which to grow heart muscle cells that were harvested from rats.
They used an electric current to shock the Medusoid into swimming with synchronized contractions that mimic those of real jellyfish.
The advance, by researchers at Caltech and Harvard University, is reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
The finding serves as a proof of concept for reverse engineering a variety of muscular organs and simple life forms.
Because jellyfish use a muscle to pump their way through the water, the way they function – on a very basic level – is similar to that of a human heart.
“I started looking at marine organisms that pump to survive,” said Kevin Kit Parker, a professor of bioengineering and applied physics at Harvard.
“Then I saw a jellyfish at the New England Aquarium, and I immediately noted both similarities and differences between how the jellyfish pumps and the human heart.
“The similarities help reveal what you need to do to design a bio-inspired pump.”
Scientists used an electric current to shock the Medusoid into swimming with synchronized contractions that mimic those of real jellyfish
The work also points to a broader definition of “synthetic life” in an emerging field of science that has until now focused on replicating life’s building blocks, say the researchers.
Prof. Kevin Kit Parker said he wanted to challenge the traditional view of synthetic biology which is “focused on genetic manipulations of cells”. Instead of building just a cell, he sought to “build a beast”.
The two groups at Caltech and Harvard worked for years to understand the key factors that contribute to jellyfish propulsion, including the arrangement of their muscles, how their bodies contract and recoil, and how fluid dynamics helps or hinders their movements.
Once these functions were well understood, the researchers began to reverse engineer them.
They used silicone to fashion a jellyfish-shaped body with eight arm-like appendages.
Next, they printed a pattern made of protein onto the “body” that resembled the muscle architecture of the real animal.
They grew the heart muscle cells on top, with the protein pattern serving as a road map for the growth and organization of the rat tissue. This allowed them to turn the cells into a coherent swimming muscle.
When the researchers set the Medusoid free in a container of electrically conducting fluid, they shocked the Medusoid into swimming with synchronized contractions. The muscle cells even started to contract a bit on their own before the electrical current was applied.
“I was surprised that with relatively few components – a silicone base and cells that we arranged – we were able to reproduce some pretty complex swimming and feeding behaviors that you see in biological jellyfish,” said John Dabiri, professor of aeronautics and bioengineering at Caltech.
“I’m pleasantly surprised at how close we are getting to matching the natural biological performance, but also that we’re seeing ways in which we can probably improve on that natural performance. The process of evolution missed a lot of good solutions.”
Lead author Janna Nawroth from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena commented that the field of tissue engineering was “still a very qualitative art”.
She said researchers tried to copy a tissue or organ “based on what they think is important or what they see as the major components without necessarily understanding if those components are relevant to the desired function or without analyzing first how different materials could be used”.
The team aims to carry out further work on the artificial jellyfish. They want to make adjustments that will allow it to turn and move in a particular direction.
They also plan to incorporate a simple “brain” so it can respond to its environment and replicate more advanced behaviors like moving towards a light source and seeking energy or food.