The Office of College Admission is considering changing its supplemental essay questions in response to the Supreme Court’s coming rulings on race-conscious admissions, University administrators said at a Wednesday Undergraduate Council of Students town hall.
Any new questions would serve to offer applicants opportunities to share more information about their identity “to try to get a better sense of the lived experiences of discrimination or overcoming hardship that our students may face,” Associate Provost for Enrollment Logan Powell said during the panel — while emphasizing that all discussions surround “hypothetical scenarios” given that the court has not issued its ruling yet.
Eileen Goldgeier ’85, general counsel and vice president of the Office of General Counsel, said at the panel that the essay questions would hinge on an applicant’s “identity” as admissions officers attempt to learn more about the applicant.
The proposed changes would only be implemented if the Court upholds “race-awareness” in admissions in place of “race consciousness,” Goldgeier said. Regardless of the decision, the University is “going to follow the law,” she said.
While colleges can practice race-conscious admissions by allowing applicants to check a box indicating their race, “race awareness” would allow colleges to consider race as one factor in students’ identities among a number of others if they detailed it in their essays.
The Court appears likely to outlaw race-conscious admissions this summer in rulings on cases brought by Students for Fair Admissions against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina.
A group of University officials is meeting to discuss the potential impacts of the Supreme Court’s coming rulings — including discussing alternatives to considering race in admissions — Powell told The Herald.
At the meetings, the group of faculty, senior staff and other stakeholders considers “what we think the outcomes” of the cases could be, Powell said in an interview with The Herald.
“We bring in experts … to help address the implementation of possible plans,” he said. Recently, the group brought in students to give feedback on a set of essay topics.
The group asked students what they thought of the essay topics and if they thought they would “help us achieve our goal,” Powell said.
Similarly, when the group discusses financial aid, it “bring(s) in a financial aid representative,” Powell said.
Sylvia Carey-Butler, vice president for institutional equity and diversity and inclusion, added at the panel that administrators are in the process of “developing strategies to mitigate against the (Supreme Court) outcome” while following the law.
At the graduate level, Carey-Butler said that the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity is launching an initiative with the hopes of “creating a pipeline” to recruit more graduates from historically Black colleges and universities.
“We are going to be intentional with our engagement,” she said.
Powell also discussed the University’s college-readiness program for the Providence Public School District, which will begin this fall, The Herald previously reported. “We are very close to hiring a director of the college access pipeline program,” he said at the panel.
“We just had a meeting yesterday … with all of the (PPSD) counseling staff to talk about policy implementation” following the University’s recent extension of its test-optional policy, Powell added.
Other initiatives that Powell mentioned focused on the recruitment and matriculation of applicants of color, such as coming joint recruitment efforts with Howard University.
Mina Sarmas ’24, UCS vice president, said that the idea for the town hall came from meetings with President Christina Paxson P’19 P’MD’20 and Vice President for Campus Life Eric Estes.
“We wanted to host a town hall event where students can learn or ask questions about potential changes that will be made and what the University will do in response,” Sarmas said.
Skye Alex Jackson ’25, who moderated the event, said that race conscious-admissions have “been a key tool for Brown to combat past and present injustices, and its potential losses pose an existential threat to all historically disadvantaged students.”
Owen Dahlkamp is a Section Editor overseeing coverage for University News and Science & Research. Hailing from San Diego, CA, he is concentrating in political science and cognitive neuroscience with an interest in data analytics. In his free time, you can find him making spreadsheets at Dave’s Coffee.