Colleges will be able to prevent rush of students on admission applications
Each year, millions of students applying to college through the Common App are given the option to check a box disclosing whether they identify as Hispanic, Asian, Black or White, among other options. We do.
Now, with the U.S. Supreme Court expected to rule against race-conscious admissions soon — and with colleges willing to comply with the law — the Common App has made a pre-emptive move known as the “Race Box.” have picked up.
Beginning August 1, colleges will be able to hide the information in those boxes from their admissions teams, Jenny Rickard, Common App’s chief executive, said in an interview.
The new option will help colleges “adhere to whatever legal standard the Supreme Court sets with regard to race in admissions,” Common App said in a statement. A nonprofit, Common Apps manages a universal application used by more than 1,000 colleges and universities.
The decision, which appears to be aimed at immunizing colleges from litigation, is the first concrete example of how college admissions might change if the Supreme Court rules on or restricts caste-conscious admissions. The college may put more pressure on opt-out applicants to indicate their racial and ethnic background, primarily through essays or teacher recommendations.
The scope of the court’s ruling, expected in late June, is unknown. But the judges showed keen interest in the use of the race box during oral arguments last fall.
The colleges have said they will comply with the law, but are wary of future litigation. Groups opposing affirmative action have said they may file lawsuits that could test the limits of the Supreme Court ruling.
The potential case against the race box is clear, according to Edward Blum, founder of Students for Fair Admissions, a plaintiff in the current court cases against Harvard and the University of North Carolina.
“If racial preferences are determined to be illegal, it should follow that racial classification boxes should not be allowed on college application forms,” he said.
Masking the race box on the Common App could provide universities with a measure of plausible deniability, and perhaps some protection from lawsuits, legal experts said.
Essays are less likely targets for lawsuits. As a practical matter, with more than 50,000 applicants to Harvard alone, it would be difficult to weed out mentions of race from the thousands of application essays the colleges receive each year.
But more litigation is likely around the broader issue of diversity, like scholarships for black students. “There is a massive, well-organized, well-funded attack agenda,” said Art Coleman, managing partner at the Education Council, a consulting firm that works with universities on Supreme Court cases.
During oral arguments, the Supreme Court justices spent considerable time discussing the race box and application essay. Some version of the phrase “checking the box” was used more than 30 times during a five-hour argument before the justices last October.
Patrick Strawbridge, an advocate for fair admissions for students, disputed with the justices whether it was appropriate for admissions officers to know an applicant’s race. He suggested that much would depend on the context of revelation.
Mr. Strawbridge told the judges, “What we object to is race and the idea of race itself.”
“Race in a box-checking way, as opposed to race in an empirical statement?” Justice Amy Coney Barrett, one of the conservative majority, is expected to be sympathetic to the plaintiffs, elaborated.
Mr Strawbridge said it would be difficult to object to a thoughtful essay invoking a student’s race in the context of a highly personal story.
An essay about overcoming racial discrimination may be allowed, as it “clearly indicates that the applicant has fortitude, that the applicant has overcome some difficulties,” Mr Strawbridge told the judges. told. “It tells you something about the character and experience of the applicant in addition to the color of their skin.”
Isiah Crawford, president of the University of Puget Sound, said he hoped the court would agree with Mr Strawbridge on that point.
“We certainly believe that it should be a First Amendment right for student applicants to be able to speak about their backgrounds,” Dr. Crawford said.
If discussion of a student’s race was completely taboo, he said, a white applicant to an Ivy League school might be able to write about being the child of an alumnus, while a black student could “talk about his might not be able to do” background, whose grandparents weren’t allowed to go to Ivy League-like schools, and how that has influenced their choices.
Ms Rickard said the Common App would continue to collect racial information for its own purposes, such as looking at trends in applications among different groups, regardless of how the Supreme Court decides. Because the nonprofit does not admit students, it is unlikely to be the target of litigation.
Colleges will be able to suppress racial information from both the printable and digital forms of applications. The Common App already allows colleges to hide information about test scores if they don’t consider test scores in admissions. Colleges are also able to hide students’ social security numbers, dates of birth, gender and criminal history.
Mr Coleman said he expected the court’s focus during oral arguments on the box’s investigation meant it would rule against only the most simplistic and conservative use of race in admissions.
Otherwise, he said, trying to hide an applicant’s caste could turn into an absurd exercise. For example, during an applicant’s interview, “Are you going to go behind the scenes?”