Some Colleges are Using Application Essays to Bypass Affirmative Action Ban

2024-01-22 07:00:13

Lots of people, including us, predicted that this is exactly what would happen.

This story is from the New York Times, and Professor Jacobson is quoted:

After Affirmative Action Ban, They Rewrote College Essays With a Key Theme: Race

Astrid Delgado first wrote her college application essay about a death in her family. Then she reshaped it around a Spanish book she read as a way to connect to her Dominican heritage.

Deshayne Curley wanted to leave his Indigenous background out of his essay. But he reworked it to focus on an heirloom necklace that reminded him of his home on the Navajo Reservation.

The first draft of Jyel Hollingsworth’s essay explored her love for chess. The final focused on the prejudice between her Korean and Black American families and the financial hardships she overcame.

All three students said they decided to rethink their essays to emphasize one key element: their racial identities. And they did so after the Supreme Court last year struck down affirmative action in college admissions, leaving essays the only place for applicants to directly indicate their racial and ethnic backgrounds.

High school students graduating this year worked on their college applications, due this month, in one of the most turbulent years in American education. Not only have they had to prepare them in the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war — which sparked debates about free speech and antisemitism on college campuses, leading to the resignation of two Ivy League presidents — but they also had to wade through the new ban on race-conscious admissions…

Some experts argue that the court’s ruling encourages students to write on racial conflict, trauma and adversity. Natasha Warikoo, a professor of humanities and social sciences at Tufts University, said that the Supreme Court justices are “expecting that a story of adversity is going to play the role that race played when we had race-conscious admissions.”

But Joe Latimer, the director of college counseling at Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts, said he believes it is not necessary for students “to sell their trauma.” Instead, he advises his students to present their identities as “strength based,” showing the positive traits they have built from their experiences as a person of color.

Critics of affirmative action say they are worried about essays becoming a loophole for colleges to consider an applicant’s race. “My concern is that the system will be gamed,” said William A. Jacobson, a law professor at Cornell University who founded the nonprofit Equal Projection Project.




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