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Obama-Era Guidance On Race In College Admissions Reversed; U.K. Anti-Terror Police Join Inquiry Into Unknown Substance; Frantic Efforts Underway To Rescue Trapped Kids In Thai Cave. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired July 4, 2018 - 07:30   ET



[07:31:09] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So, the Trump administration is rescinding a set of Obama-era guidelines that promoted using race to make colleges more diverse. They could look at the race of an applicant. The decision is setting up a new battle over admissions at college campuses and schools across the country.

So let's bring in Michael Eric Dyson. His new book, "What Truth Sounds Like," is now a "New York Times" instant bestseller. Also with us, CNN political commentator Paris Dennard.

Great to have both of you. Happy Fourth of July to both of you. Thank you for spending your holiday portion of it with us.

Paris, I want to start with you. Are college campuses now officially diverse? No more work needed in achieving that.


I think that there is a need to do whatever we can to make sure that college is accessible and affordable, more importantly, to as many students who wish to go to a 4-year institution or a community college or any other school.

CAMEROTA: Sure, so but do you -- I mean, if you don't think they're diverse do you agree with what the Trump administration is doing in advising colleges to no longer look at race as part of the application process -- admissions process?

DENNARD: Well, I -- well, I think the important thing to look at with this decision that came out from the Justice Department is that it actually changes nothing about how colleges make decisions in the admissions process. It does not do anything so -- to change anything of that nature.

What it does is rescinds a set of guidances that the Obama administration put in without public comment. And I think what you've seen this administration do --


DENNARD: -- and say is we should abide by the rules and how we do rule changes because under the Obama administration when they did that change on parent PLUS and that -- without public comment and while --


DENNARD: -- doing things like that, it totally destroyed a lot of families, a lot of communities, a lot of HBCUs and things like that. It's --

CAMEROTA: I hear what you're saying, but in terms of the policy itself it does say that it is now basically official Trump administration policy that in college, administrators should not look at race. And if they do so Paris, they risk an investigation or being sued by the Justice Department.

DENNARD: All I can tell you is what the -- what the CNN report that came out yesterday from Laura Jarrett said in that report, and I think CNN's reporting is correct.

CAMEROTA: I appreciate that.

DENNARD: And that it -- and that it does not change anything that goes on on a college campus --


DENNARD: -- as it relates to admissions processes.

CAMEROTA: Michael, do you think that this changes something?

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, SOCIOLOGY PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY, CONTRIBUTING OPINION WRITER, THE NEW YORK TIMES, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, THE NEW REPUBLIC AND ESPN'S "THE UNDEFEATED" WEBSITE, AUTHOR, "WHAT TRUTH SOUNDS LIKE": Absolutely -- tone, temperature, the timing, the approach. Coloring people's perception if there is a perceived pressure by the Trump administration that race should no longer be a consideration.

Look, already it was illegal to have a quota. That is to say we're going to make up for the numbers of black and brown people who have been historically denied or compensation to make up for the historically maligned African-American and Latino populations.

But what it does suggest is that there should be a consideration of race and a holistic understanding of how college administration -- college admissions are administered.

So in that case, race is a figure -- a significant feature among many others when considering a person so that diversity enhances not only African-American and Latino people who have been denied access but those white students who need to have the benefit of those black students and brown students.

For instance, think about the fact we would have far fewer people inclined to call the police on strange-acting black or brown people if they actually had a college course with them and interacted with them.

But secondly, what's interesting here -- we're not talking about the masses of college and universities here. We're speaking about the intense competition for the elite -- the top echelon. So that 15 percent of college-aged students are black and yet there are only six percent at these elite institutions. Latinos, 22 percent of the population and only 13 percent at these elite colleges.

[07:35:06] So we're not talking about the Detroit Pistons, we're speaking about the Golden State Warriors. We're not talking about the average free agent, we're talking about LeBron James.


DYSON: So we're talking the competition over scarcer and scarcer resources. And what the Trump administration has done here is rejected the principle of diversity as the predicate for expanding the minds of American students so that we understand race, class --

CAMEROTA: Yes, I hear --

DYSON: -- culture, gender, and the like --

CAMEROTA: I hear your premise.

DYSON: -- and that's part of the problem.

CAMEROTA: I hear your premise, Michael. But I think, if I can try to interpret what the Trump administration says it's doing is that they think that college admission should be merit-based and it should be color-blind.

DYSON: Of course, but first of all, they usually quote Martin Luther King, Jr. who said judge me by the content of the character, not the color of my skin. But, Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1963 in his book "Why We Can't Wait," said that if the nation has done something special against the Negro (as we were then called) for 240 years, the nation must do now something special for the Negro.


DYSON: So merit is dependent upon who counts what is meritorious.

Think about this. When people used to get access to schools they were like you're a violin player from Vermont and we have a deficit of people from there. There were always extra academic, extracurricular considerations --

CAMEROTA: Considerations, yes.

DYSON: -- to play in terms of the doling out who got into these schools and that. So, race was one --

CAMEROTA: Yes, I hear you. There was --

DYSON: -- among many others. If race has been used as a demerit -- CAMEROTA: For sure, there was definitely -- yes.

DYSON: -- it has to be constituted as a merit.

CAMEROTA: Great point. There was always a desire for geographic diversity.

So, Paris, what about that? Do you think that, as the administration seems to be suggesting, all applications should be color-blind -- they will not be able to look at race -- or do you think that it makes it somehow a richer environment to have -- to be able to look at someone's race in applications?

DENNARD: I think Secretary of State -- former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said it best when talking about this specific issue. She said race is a factor but race should not be the factor in determining one's admission into a college or university.

CAMEROTA: Right, but the announce -- I mean, it sounds like the Trump administration is saying -- the Trump -- I'll read it to you.

"The Trump administration said Tuesday it was abandoning Obama administration policies that called on universities to consider race as a factor in diversifying their campuses, signaling the administration will champion race-blind admissions."

DENNARD: Look, I think that -- make no mistake about the president's feeling on merit, and the president does feel that we should help people that meet merit -- that meet certain criteria and that are qualified and have all the scores to do things. But I don't think that this should by any means suggest that the administration is somehow against minorities.

When you look at what this administration has done, specifically in terms of supporting HBCUs or when you take a step further what this administration has done in promoting things like apprenticeships which are very important --

CAMEROTA: Right, but in just -- I understand, but in just this policy --

DENNARD: I think that --

DYSON: Alisyn, to answer your question, yes. The president is denying the opportunity for college consideration of race and class in this issue.

DENNARD: He is not. Let's just -- I think -- I think what is important to realize is that go back to the story posted by CNN that Laura Jarrett and others did and it said explicitly --

CAMEROTA: Yes, but I --

DENNARD: -- this will not --

DYSON: Sir -- DENNARD: -- change any --

CAMEROTA: Laura Jarrett --

DYSON: Hold on, hold on. Wait a minute.

DENNARD: This will not change --


DYSON: I'm a college professor. I deal with original sources, not secondary sources. Ms. Jarrett, bless her heart, is a secondary source.

When you look at the proposal and the policy change itself, what Attorney General Sessions is doing as head of the Department of Justice is denying the legitimacy and the validity of considering race as a factor.

So the reality is what Mr. Dennard has just indicated that race should play a factor in quoting Condoleezza Rice, the president is denying the legitimacy of that through the Department of Justice. So yes, in terms of original sources because that's what we deal with in high-end elite institutions of higher education is that when we go --

DENNARD: Well --

DYSON: -- to the source itself we see that the president is denying the legitimacy of race and therefore, consider -- not considering that is a diversity mandate on American public education.

CAMEROTA: Are you comfortable with that, Paris? If colleges do not consider --

DENNARD: What I --

CAMEROTA: race anymore?

DENNARD: You all are out of control talking about this as it's some crisis.

Dr. Dyson is so obsessed with his elitism and his elite schools. I don't care about Harvard or Yale or Princeton or all these elite schools. What I'm concerned about are --

DYSON: Clearly, you're not.

DENNARD: I'm not and --

DYSON: Clearly.

DENNARD: -- I think the American -- and the American people are not concerned about the elitists and the elite schools.


DENNARD: What we -- what we -- what we --

DYSON: You're engaging in a red herring, sir. You're not answering the question.

The question is do you think it's legitimate to consider race as a factor in admissions to higher education? That's the question. You keep avoiding it.

DENNARD: Well, Dr. Dyson --

DYSON: Go to one of these elite schools --

CAMEROTA: OK, hold on, Michael. Let him answer that.

DYSON: -- and learn how to engage in --

CAMEROTA: Let him answer that.

DYSON: -- analytical scrutiny and therefore, you would be able to answer the question.

CAMEROTA: OK, let him answer.

DENNARD: Dr. Dyson, your elitism is offensive and I don't think -- I think what we have a problem in this country is thinking that the --

DYSON: I don't have elitism. I have skill, competency, merit-based --

DENNARD: That's the all --

CAMEROTA: I understand, but hold on. Paris -- but hold on. Paris, it sounds like you do think that race should be a factor.

[07:40:05] DENNARD: I think race is a factor. I think diversity is important. Nobody is -- and --

CAMEROTA: Yes. And so, if it were going away that would upset you.

DENNARD: It's not and that is the point. It's not. The point --

CAMEROTA: It sounds like it is, Paris.

DENNARD: The point that I'm making is if you go to any college campus today -- if you go to one of the elite schools that Dr. Dyson is so obsessed with -- that thinks that's the only way you could be smart in this country -- if you go there --

DYSON: That's not what I said. You're putting words in my mouth.

DENNARD: -- you -- if you go --

DYSON: Not what I said. Go to school, take a class.

CAMEROTA: Hold on.

DYSON: Learn to engage in argument logically, sir, not emotionally.

DENNARD: I'm not engaging in any type of emotional --

DYSON: Yes, you are. You are ascribing to me sentiments I did not articulate.

CAMEROTA: Hold on. Michael, let him finish his thought. So, Paris, yes -- so --

DENNARD: I did not express those ideas. I'm simply saying that when you talk about access you are -- you, among many other Americans who think oh, access to Harvard, Yale or Princeton -- that's what the debate is. The debate is about elite institutions that credential people that go on therefore to make significant marks on life.

I'm not suggesting that those who go to other places -- I started at a historically black college and university --


DYSON: -- then went to a little-known white school. So I, sir, understand the need for access to higher education at every level.


DYSON: What you're avoiding here is dealing with the fact that you're being asked is race a consideration legitimately and validly --

CAMEROTA: OK. Michael, let him answer.

DYSON: -- in granting admissions to higher education.

CAMEROTA: You've made your point.

DYSON: Just answer the point.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Paris.

DENNARD: I'm confused as to whose show this is. But I will tell you --

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Paris.

DENNARD: -- that --

CAMEROTA: Please answer the question and this is -- you'll get the last word.

DENNARD: Diversity is important but what we should take from this ruling is that it does not change anything that's going to happen on any college campus tomorrow or the near future, and that's the point. We're rushing to conclusions.

CAMEROTA: I'm not sure you're right about that, Paris. I mean, and this --

DENNARD: I am right about that.

CAMEROTA: The policy is that it was abandoning Obama administration policies that called on universities to consider race as a factor. That is what's happened here.

Hold on.

DENNARD: And when --

DYSON: Sounds like access to those schools would make a big difference in arguments and on CNN as well.

CAMEROTA: Hold on, Michael. Go ahead, Paris.

DENNARD: And when you go to those schools they are not going to all of a sudden abandon their --

CAMEROTA: Not all of a sudden. I mean, you're looking at a timeframe. But are you comfortable with this policy?

DENNARD: What I'm comfortable with is the administration doing the right thing on the rule of law in terms of how to apply these guidances because when the Obama administration just unilaterally put in a guidance like this --


DENNARD: -- with parent PLUS, it was a disastrous effect on many students.

DYSON: Red herring. Distraction, distraction.

CAMEROTA: OK, I know. I hear you. You're more focused -- I understand.

DYSON: He's not dealing with the point.

CAMEROTA: Hold on, Michael. I hear you. I hear you, Paris. You're more focused on process than policy.

OK, I get it. We're going to leave it there.

Paris Dennard, Michael Eric Dyson, thank you both for making your points.

DYSON: Thank you.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Look, the issue here is this is a policy from an administration. It is not the rule of law but it does tell you what the administration wants here. What the administration wants is for race to not be a factor.

CAMEROTA: Sure. BERMAN: Right now, the law, which has not changed, is race can be a factor. The important thing to remember here, though, is that a Supreme Court --


BERMAN: -- will likely hear cases about this in the next year or two and with a new justice, very well may rule that race cannot be a factor here.

CAMEROTA: Yes. And also, according to the reporting, yes, you're right. It is not a law but it will -- if colleges don't take this directive they are opened up for investigations or lawsuits from the Department of Justice.

AVLON: And the -- this administration chose to make this a policy priority --


AVLON: -- this statement. Why did they make this statement? It's not as sanguine as Paris would have you believe, unfortunately.

BERMAN: All right. We do have some breaking news out of the United Kingdom. We understand that authorities there are investigating a new possible poisoning. We'll have a live report from the scene, next.


[07:47:13] BERMAN: Breaking news.

British counterterror police are now investigating an incident that has left two people in critical condition after being exposed to an unknown substance. This happening just miles from where a Russian double agent and his daughter were poisoned back in March.

Our Erin McLaughlin live in Amesbury in England with the breaking details. Erin, what are you learning?


Well, this is yet another mystery that authorities here in Wiltshire are working furiously to solve, being very tight-lipped at this point with the details. But what we do know is that on Saturday evening, a couple yet to be identified by officials, in their mid-40s were found at the apartment block behind me unconscious.

Now initially, authorities suspected a drug overdose -- cocaine or heroin. Now, they're saying they don't know for sure and they've declared a mass incident and have cordoned off the apartment block. Also, a local pharmacy, as well as a Baptist church where residents tell us the couple had attended a fun fair just hours before being found unconscious.

This has this area on edge raising a lot of eyebrows and concerns because of its proximity, of course, to Salisbury which is just six miles away. Four months ago, that is where the ex-Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious, poisoned by a weapons-grade nerve agent. The British government has since blamed Russia for that attack.

Now we have heard from the police commissioner in this area tell the BBC earlier this morning that there -- at the moment, there are no links between what happened to this couple at this point and the Skripals. But this is the subject of this ongoing investigation and counterterrorism police have been brought in as well -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Erin McLaughlin for us in Amesbury. We'll stay on this all morning. Really appreciate it.

Also, we're following new developments out of Thailand where rescuers are trying to reach and get those 12 kids trapped in the cave out. We have new developments and we'll speak to an expert diver, next.


[07:53:23] CAMEROTA: Frantic efforts are still underway at this hour to rescue those 12 boys and their coach who are trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand and it is still not clear how exactly they plan to get them out. So there are a couple of different options. One is accessing them through cave chimneys and another is a plan to rescue them using full-face diving masks.

CNN's Anna Coren has been on the scene live for us in Thailand with all the latest. So give us the developments at this hour, Anna.

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, as you say, they are still looking at that diving option to extract those 12 boys and their coach from the cave that has had them for the last 11 days.

We saw incredible video today of these boys. Yes, they were smiling but their faces so gaunt. They have lost so much weight. So obviously, their health is paramount because they need them to be strong enough if they are going to get out of this cave by diving.

You mentioned those full-face masks. Well, they would wear them and basically all the kids would have to do is breath. The oxygen tanks would be attached to the Navy SEALs. They would just have to climb onto the back of one of those Navy SEALs and they would quite literally drag them through the cave.

The cave, however, is some four kilometers long and it's some narrow passageways which are the most challenging, so this is where the danger lies. We spoke to a professional diver who said there's a real risk the children could get injured if this goes ahead.

So their preference really is to go through the ceiling and we've heard that crews are now scouring the mountain looking for access holes to see whether they can make that happen. It would obviously be a lot easier and a lot safe, Alisyn.

[07:55:10] BERMAN: All right, I'll take it, Anna. Anna Coren for us on the ground in Thailand.

Joining us now by phone is Bill Whitehouse, the vice chairman of the British Cave Rescue Council. His group has organized the British cave divers supporting the rescue efforts now underway in Thailand. Bill, thanks so much for joining us.

We've seen new pictures over the last 12 hours of divers reaching those children. Some of them appear to have smiles on their face which is a wonderful sight to see.

I wonder if you have heard anything new from the people on the ground there.

BILL WHITEHOUSE, VICE CHAIRMAN, BRITISH CAVE RESCUE COUNCIL (via telephone): Nothing really new, I'm afraid.

But I've been interested listening to your correspondent talking there about the -- diving the children out -- the possibility of diving the children out using full-face masks. Certainly, they'd have to use full-face masks. Expecting them to dive in normal diving equipment with a gag in their mouth would not really be an option.

It's still lots of risks and lots of difficulties but, of course, ultimately it might be the only thing that they can do -- try that. There's talking about getting down via chimneys and into the cave. That is always a possibility, of course, and I know a lot of effort has been put into finding other entrances into the cave which only has one known entrance at the moment.

The problem is this cave goes under quite a mountain, as I understand it, and even if you could find the right place on the surface above the cave you've probably got to make a descent down several hundred meters of rock before you get to the level that the -- that the cave is at.

So, yes, you might find an opening but whether it would go all the way --

BERMAN: Right.

WHITEHOUSE: -- or indeed, whether it would go to the part of the cave that you want or whether it might just go into a part of the cave that is already flooded.

So there are lots of -- there are lots of unknowns --

BERMAN: Indeed.

WHITEHOUSE: -- but I'm sure they're exploring all the opportunities --


WHITEHOUSE: -- and looking at all the various options.

BERMAN: I think that's crystal clear at this point. They're exploring every possible option. We've seen pictures from the scene now and there seems to be a small army of people there trying to figure out a way to get these kids out as quickly as possible.

You mentioned the full-face mask option as being perhaps the only option to swim them out because traditional diving equipment would be way too complicated. We understand that some of these children may not even know how to swim.

So what would you do to get them ready to get out, even with these full-face masks, over the next few days?

WHITEHOUSE: Well, again, your correspondent talked about them getting on the back of a Navy SEAL and sort of being carried out that way. Whether that's -- whether that's possible -- because if you get two people, one of the back of the other, whether the passages are -- some of the passages are big enough to take people like that.

The other way is possibly to cocoon the children somehow --


WHITEHOUSE: -- so that they can't move and they're just like a package, and then propel them out that way. So --

BERMAN: So, Bill, let me --


BERMAN: Let me ask you. I understand there is this now guidewire which is set up all the way --


BERMAN: -- to the location where they are.

Is this being used as a sort of highway now to get people -- rescuers, supplies, in? How quickly can they get gear to them through this process?

WHITEHOUSE: Right. I mean, the cave divers always lay a line as they start exploring some flooded passage. It's to use as a guideline. It's not something to pull on normally. It's -- you follow it by circling it with your sort of finger and thumb.

And it's a guideline so that you can know the way and you don't get lost because you can get underwater in the dark with poor visibility in the -- you know, in the water. It's suspended sediment. It's very easy to get disoriented.

So that line, once that's laid, at least people -- if they keep touch with that line they'll know which way they're going. It doesn't add much to -- I mean, it's not the sort of a line that you can pull things through on.

BERMAN: Right. WHITEHOUSE: At least I don't believe they have laid -- if it's a guideline, as I understand it, that cave divers use it will only be a thin line.

BERMAN: Yes, that's what I understand. That's what I understand to be the case right now although the divers are using it to reach them now more quickly, getting more help, supplies, and experts to the site of the children, which is encouraging yet still, we haven't seen them figuring out exactly how they will extract them.

Bill Whitehouse, great to have you with us. Thanks so much for helping us understand what's going on there underneath the ground in Thailand.

We have a lot of news this morning on this special edition of NEW DAY, so let's get to it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putin was trying to compromise our election to try to help Trump win.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's ridiculous. I think it's just another excuse. I don't believe it.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: I asked our friends in Russia not to interfere in our election this year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president had floated replacing Sessions with Pruitt. Scott Pruitt, himself, proposed it to the president.