Over 100 students gathered on the Main Green Thursday, calling for the University to end legacy admissions and move to a test-optional admissions process.
“What matters? Race matters,” the students shouted.
The rally, led by Students for Educational Equity and the Undergraduate Council of Students’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, was organized ahead of the Supreme Court’s expected decision to overturn affirmative action later this year.
“Our diversity is our strength,” said Niyanta Nepal ’25, SEE co-president, to the crowd at the rally. “Affirmative action is a critical tool in this effort, as it allows us to level the playing field for historically underrepresented communities.”
In the possible absence of affirmative action, Nepal called for the University to permanently commit to test-optional admissions, a policy that has been temporarily in place for prospective undergraduates since the 2020-2021 admission cycle.
A spokesperson from the University did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Nepal also called for the University to abolish legacy admissions, which allows admission officers to consider whether an applicant’s family members attended the University. The policy “has no place in our university,” she said.
Legacy admissions rob “seats from systematically marginalized populations,” according to former SEE co-President Zoë Fuad ’23.5. “It is far past time to end this archaic policy.”
In the absence of race-based admissions, Brown may turn to legacy admissions as one way to continue admitting a diverse class, Associate Provost for Enrollment Logan Powell previously said at a University-sponsored panel last month.
Brown “has admitted increasingly diverse classes of students, which means that their children are increasingly diverse,” Powell noted, explaining that roughly one-third of the legacy students and student-athletes on campus self-identify as students of color.
Speakers such as SEE co-President Jada Wooten ’24 highlighted the possible consequences of overturning affirmative action on Brown’s racial diversity.
“Affirmative action means that colleges and universities are at least attempting to repair U.S. schools’ disregard of Black students, teachers and curricula,” Wooten said to the crowd. “Affirmative action means more Black students have the opportunity for social mobility in a world created so we stay on the bottom.”
“Unfortunately, I have witnessed firsthand how repealing affirmative action means reducing the percentage of Black students and schools’ overall diversity,” Wooten added.
Wooten, who is a Michigan native, referenced her home state’s vote to ban affirmative action at public universities, which decreased the percentage of Black students at the University of Michigan from 7% to 4% and Native American Students from 1% to 0.11%.
Skye Alex Jackson ’25, UCS chair of equity and inclusion, recalled the history of Black student activism at Brown during her speech to the crowd.
“In 1966, 65 Black students walked out in protest of Brown's lack of commitment to students of color,” Jackson said. “They fought the administration to increase black student admission (to) over 11%.”
“It was student activism that led to the diversity we see on the campus around us,” Jackson added. “It’s student (activism) that we need now.”
Neil Mehta is a University News section editor covering Institutional Equity and Student Affinity at The Brown Daily Herald. He also serves as the 133rd Editorial Board's design chief. He is a sophomore from Stony Brook, NY studying public health. Outside the office, you can find Neil baking, reading YA fiction and playing Tetris.