With the affirmative action decision, college admissions can become more materialistic

In the Supreme Court Conclusion Striking racial and ethnic preferences in college admissions, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. had harsh words for Harvard and the University of North Carolina, calling their admissions process “elusive,” “opaque” and “impossible.”

But the court’s ruling against the two universities on Thursday could lead to an admissions system that is even more subjective and mysterious, as colleges try to follow the law but admit more diverse students.

Officials at some universities predicted less emphasis on standardized metrics like test scores and class rank and more emphasis on personal qualities conveyed through recommendations and the application essay — the opposite of what many affirmative action opponents had hoped for.

“Will it become more opaque? Yes. “It’s a complicated process, and this concept will make it even more complicated.”

In an interview, Edward Bloom, founder and president of Students for Fair Admissions, advocated what he called “standardized measures” of academic merit, citing studies that showed test scores, grades and coursework helped determine which students would advance competitively. schools.

He vowed to implement the decision, saying Students for Fair Admissions and its counsel are “closely monitoring potential changes to admissions practices.”

“We remain vigilant and intend to initiate litigation if universities violate this clear ruling,” he wrote in a statement Thursday.

However, it is almost impossible to remove any hint or suggestion of race in the admissions process – starting with applicants’ names. In the ruling, Justice Roberts specifically left the door open to consider racial or ethnic background in one’s lived experience.

“Nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race has affected his or her life, whether it be discrimination, motivation or otherwise,” he wrote.

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However, he cautioned that the personal essay cannot play a stealthy role in telegraphing race. “In other words, the student should be treated as an individual based on his or her experiences — not on the basis of race,” he wrote. “Many universities have done the opposite for a long time.”

Universities including Harvard and UNC said Thursday they would comply with the ruling. But for outside skeptics, unraveling a university’s intentions can be challenging. How do they know if an admissions decision is based on an essay about personal anxiety — or the race of the applicant it revealed?

“I think the most plausible outcome is for schools to cheat and say ‘who gets sued,'” said Richard Sander, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Some academic authorities have already discussed how to use the article. Shannon Gundy said students should craft their admissions essays to describe how race has affected their lives. An admissions officer at the University of Maryland, recently presentation Sponsored by the American Council on Education.

“Nowadays, students write about their football practice, they write about the death of their grandmother,” he added: “They don’t write about their trials and tribulations. They don’t write about the challenges they had to go through.

Colleges can also ask for other additional pointers through the “diversity, equity, and inclusion” reports that have become a well-known part of faculty hiring.

Ms. Holly, incoming Mount Holyoke president, envisioned a question like this: “One of the core values ​​of Mount Holyoke College is diversity in all its forms. Tell us why you value it and what you think you bring to the Mount Holyoke community in terms of diversity.

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Echoing experiences in California and Michigan, after those states banned affirmative action at their public universities years ago, college officials predicted an immediate drop in the number of black and Hispanic students at selective universities. At the University of California, Berkeley, black students made up just 3.4 percent of the freshman class last fall, a quarter-century after Prohibition took effect.

But 100 or so schools are taking affirmative action, planning for months or even years for this moment. They’ve already moved toward an era of “race-neutral” admissions — one that tries to follow the letter of the law while finding ways to adhere to the ethics of affirmative action.

Academic rigor still matters, but standardized tests? No need, sometimes no reading.

Schools increasingly prioritize high-achieving students from low-income families, or “first-generation” applicants — the first in their families to attend college. They provide cash to support students and provide need-based financial aid.

Some selective colleges play a more direct role in nurturing prospective applicants.

The University of Virginia, for example, announced plans this month to target 40 high schools in eight regions of the state. Duke University has pledged full tuition scholarships to students from North and South Carolina with family incomes of $150,000 or less.

“The really hard part is identifying and recruiting students,” said Alison Byerly, president of Carleton College, which she said will expand its partnerships with community organizations.

Colorado College president L. said students are out. Chang Richardson said. If we believe that “talent is evenly distributed” among demographic groups, he said, “you would expect an unbiased recruitment process to result in a diverse class.”

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Some academics believe that since California’s 1996 ban on affirmative action has shown that such programs can work. The UC system just admitted its most diverse class of 2021. But recruitment is very expensive; The price was in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and Berkeley, a great campus, is still struggling to catch up.

The risks are different for some public universities, such as the University of North Carolina or the University of Virginia, which have already competed with conservative politicians over “diversity, equity and inclusion” policies. They will tread carefully when it comes to any dark race-neutral policies.

“One of the real movements you’re seeing from public universities is to be as apolitical as possible in red states and blue states,” West Virginia University President Gordon Key said. “It was kind of a butt-light moment,” he said, adding that the beer company’s wrongful hiring of a transgender spokeswoman led to the boycott.

There could be pressure to blow up the whole process, eliminating options for white and wealthy alumni and children of donors.

So far, most schools have resisted that appeal, saying these options build community and help raise funds. But with the cynicism surrounding college admissions rampant and many believing the system is rigged and well-connected, the court’s decision could force a reckoning.

“It’s a big setback for racial justice, but it’s also an opportunity,” said Jerome Carabell, a UC Berkeley sociologist who studies college admissions. “Now it’s time to go to the drawing boards and see what we can do. There are a million ideas out there.

Stephanie Saul Contributed report.

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