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.