Racial Check Boxes Out at UVa Admissions. Racial Life Experiences In.

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia will eliminate the race/ethnicity checkbox on admissions applications but will allow students to describe how their “personal experiences” — including but not limited to race or ethnicity — “shaped their ability to contribute,” announced President Jim Ryan in an announcement emailed to the University community Monday.

The change in admissions policy represents Ryan’s first tangible response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling restricting the use of race as a factor in college admissions. Ryan had previously signaled his intention to “admit a class of students who are diverse across every possible dimension and to make every student feel welcome and included here at UVa.”

The tweaks to UVa’s admissions policy incorporated input from “leaders across the University,” including the Office of University Counsel, Ryan said.

Ryan’s announcement boiled down the changes to several bullet points:

  • The University reaffirmed its commitment to “the excellence of our schools and programs.” Admissions practices would assess applicants “for their capacity to succeed academically at the University, and we will continue to offer admission only to candidates we believe to be academically qualified.”
  • No one who assesses applicants will have access to self-disclosed “checkbox” information regarding race or ethnicity.
  • However, an essay prompt in the Common Application will provide an opportunity for students to describe their experiences relating to race or ethnicity. Insofar as candidates disclose their race/ethnicity, the information will be used only to assess their “unique ability as an individual to contribute to the University, and not on the basis of race or ethnicity alone.”

Ryan also addressed the controversial issue of legacy status. Another prompt in the online application will encourage candidates to “describe their relationship with the University and how those experiences have prepared them to contribute as individuals.”

Said Ryan: “We hope this prompt will give all students — not only, for example, the children of our graduates, but also the descendants of ancestors who labored at the University, as well as those with other relationships — the chance to tell their unique stories.”

While Ryan reiterated his commitment to admit “talented students from all walks of life,” none of the changes in admissions practice address the disparities in gender, geographic origin, socioeconomic status, or other dimensions of diversity that the Jefferson Council has documented on this blog.

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William H Theus
William H Theus
10 months ago

There will inevitably be some wily applicants who are capable of having the essay reader believe they are a minority member in order to gain an advantage.

Or, an Elizabeth Warren simply states that she is native American.

Richard Smith
Richard Smith
10 months ago

“..diverse across every possible dimension…” Does this include diversity of political thought for the administration and faculty?

Lefty665
Lefty665
10 months ago

Seems like the least Ryan could do following the Supreme Court decision.

With all the disparities in diversity at UVa it seems like window dressing. Small potatoes to distract from the real backsliding in many areas of diversity at UVa, Is DIE just an expensive virtue signal and a cover for business as usual?

Wahoo'74
Wahoo'74
10 months ago

Our younger two daughters are out-of-state alumnae from the classes of ’14 and ’17. A 4th year non-VA resident student in the College now pays an estimated $80,414 in “cost of attendance” at UVA
(https://sfs.virginia.edu/financial-aid-new-applicants/financial-aid-basics/estimated-undergraduate-cost-attendance-2023-2024). That is unaffordable for 90%+ of all parents – legacy or otherwise.

President Ryan and the Board of Visitors better address that. Cut staff which has ballooned way out of control the past decade. Lower tuition costs. Access UVA stops at $125K in annual family income. That precludes a huge swath of the US middle class. Who is advocating for them?

James B Newman
James B Newman
10 months ago

It has long been apparent that the current University administration will continue doing a “dance” and will never be honest as to the harm their “DEI” efforts have done and are doing to the University. They like the Dean of Students need to go.

walter smith
walter smith
10 months ago

I am happy to see that none of the commenters so far have been fooled.
UVA will continue to cheat to increase “underrepresented” admissions, with “underrepresented” essentially meaning only blacks (perhaps with some exceptions for trying to increase women (or people who identify as women…another scam loophole for a male applicant on the margin?) in STEM.

I contend UVA already does not, cannot, do a “holistic” review of 56,000 8 page Common App applications, PLUS essays.

And, since UVA is revising its practices, and says it will continue to assess that the applicant can succeed academically, will UVA bring back the SAT? What exactly was the reason for doing that? Have things changed enough to bring it back? BOV – are you listening? Why have they done away with the SAT?

Since the lying Administration which does not believe unequivocally in free inquiry won’t answer, I have a theory. UVA already uses a tool…Landscape…to cull the applicants from 56,000 to a number like 12,000. Landscape tilts the pool racially. Then you make admission decisions from an already racially enhanced pool, without explicitly considering race. UVA insists there is no score required (because they are “holistic” remember?), but there has to be some score…maybe a range of 75-80 or some such thing. Maybe whispered in the ear of the reviewers.

UVA will not change what it is doing. Note that lawyer Jim Ryan takes the Roberts “not prohibited” consideration into essentially “required.” Blame that on Roberts and his concern that his friends in DC would have been mean to him… BOV needs to exercise oversight. Your first duty – all BOV members – is to the citizens of the Commonwealth.

Wahoo74
Wahoo74
10 months ago

This is an adroit end run by President Ryan to circumvent the Supreme Court Affirmative Action ruling. I’d suggest he eradicate the $8MM+ DEI staff (the true number not the publicized one), further cut the obscene administrative staff bloat, then apply these expense savings to reduce tuition levels.

UVA cost of attendance for out-of-state undergrad students is $80,414 vs. $53,810 for UNC as a comparable example. Do Ryan and the BOV ever look at the competition? We need real world business oriented analyses of the administrative bloat at UVA%

Geoffrey Close
Geoffrey Close
10 months ago

I wonder if the admissions process will catch grammatical errors and “woke” jargon in the essays and judge the applicant accordingly. Will Good Grammer in the essay be considered racist?

Wahoo 76
Wahoo 76
10 months ago
Reply to  Geoffrey Close

Excellent point!

Clarity77
Clarity77
10 months ago

It is quite pathetic to once again observe how guilt as to his own racism corrupts the mind of Ryan. And especially as a UVA law school grad brushing aside the law in deference to the cult of woke and its driving force of subconscious guilt which must be atoned for. Sick.