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The Biden administration suggests strategies to maintain diversity post-Affirmative Action ruling

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The Biden administration has released guidance for colleges and universities wishing to maintain diversity in their admission practices. The release comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s controversial decision to gut Affirmative Action by explicitly forbidding the use of race as a factor in the college admission process. The Biden administration openly opposed the Supreme Court’s decision and still maintains that diversity is an important element of the higher education experience.

“Learning is enriched when student bodies reflect the rich diversity of our communities. Research has shown that such diversity leads to, among other things, livelier and more informative classroom discussions, the breakdown of prejudices, increased cross-racial understanding, and heightened cognitive development and problem-solving skills,” said both the Departments of Education and Justice in a letter. “The benefits of diversity in educational institutions extend beyond the classroom, as individuals who attend diverse schools are better prepared for our increasingly racially and ethnically diverse society and the global economy.”

The letter and corresponding question-and-answer sheet do go on to acknowledge that it will likely require more effort than it previously did to achieve these ends but offer some suggestions on how to do so. According to the release, though the Supreme Court prohibited the use of race as an explicit factor in admissions, schools can consider an applicant’s race as it relates to their personal story holistically.

“For example, a university could consider an applicant’s explanation of what it means to him to be the first Black violinist in his city’s youth orchestra or an applicant’s account of overcoming prejudice when she transferred to a rural high school where she was the only student of South Asian descent,” according to the document. “An institution could likewise consider a guidance counselor or other recommender’s description of how an applicant overcame her feelings of isolation as a Latina student at an overwhelmingly white high school to join the debate team.”

The administration also suggests that colleges and universities partner with underserved school districts. Students of color disproportionately come from that background, so it naturally follows that enhanced partnership and recruitment efforts in those areas would yield greater diversity.

But the release was not all about how to increase the number of underserved students. The last part suggests that institutions re-examine their practices around admission preferences based on “legacy status or donor affiliation.” This suggestion echoes the growing chorus of activists and advocates who think such practices are unfair without the counterbalance of Affirmative Action.

It is likely that even these strategies will be met with some legal challenges, as the decision is broad enough to be interpreted differently by different parties.

Contact Indy Kids Winning Reporter Andrew Pillow at andrewp@indyrecorder.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewPillow.

Andrew’s work is supported through a partnership between Indy Kids Winning and the Indianapolis Recorder. Visit indykidswinning.com to learn more.

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