The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

W&L’s diversity could decline after affirmative action decision, admissions says

The Supreme Court prevented race-conscious admissions programs. W&L is still navigating the implications

Diversity will likely decline at Washington and Lee as the university mulls the unknowns of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down affirmative action, Vice President of Admissions Sally Richmond said.

“We have some precedent to show that at highly selective schools, when you have to deploy race-neutral processes, your diversity declines,” Richmond said in a phone interview Sunday.

In June, the Supreme Court ruled that colleges and universities can not use race as a factor in admissions decisions. Already, universities are drumming up ways to circumvent those guidelines, according to a July Wall Street Journal article.

Some pivots include broadening the high schools that colleges recruit from, doing away with legacy admissions and changing how application files get reviewed. Washington and Lee has not removed legacy admissions, which privilege children of alumni, but other changes are on the table.

Politics professor Mark Rush said he believes the affirmative action decision will not impact Washington and Lee’s racial diversity due to its qualified staff.

“Admissions does good work,” Rush said. “This is going to make that work a little bit harder, but I think they will find ways to accommodate this and maintain the diversity.”

President William Dudley wrote a press release in June regarding the decision.

“While the Supreme Court has not changed our goals,” Dudley said, “it has changed the legally permissible means by which we may pursue them.”

Already, Washington and Lee’s diversity lags behind peer institutions. The class of 2027 for Amherst College, in Massachusetts, is half domestic students of color. At Davidson College, 29% of the class of 2027 is students of color. At Washington and Lee, that number is 24%.

Prior to the Supreme Court decision, Washington and Lee admissions were race-conscious due to their holistic process, Richmond said. While students still have the option to include their race in their application, admissions will now have to suppress that information by not taking race into consideration.

However, Richmond said the process will continue to be mission-driven and data-in-formed and that the university will continue to recruit a diverse applicant pool.

“To ignore how race plays a role in someone’s life is to be blind to that experience,” Richmond said.

Former Supreme Court reporter and current Washington and Lee journalism professor Toni Locy said admissions will have to broaden their recruiting pool even more than they already have to combat the effects of this Supreme Court decision.

“We need to go to different high schools,” Locy said. “If you go to the same well all the time, the water’s going to taste the same.”

Applicants may continue to share in essays and short answers how their background, including their race, has affected their life, Richmond said.

But, Locy said, applicants who come from low-income households or are first-generation college students may not have the necessary help to know what to write or how to successfully craft an application.

“It’s cutting people out and closing the door on students who are capable of succeeding at a school like this one,” she said.

Rush and Locy agree that this distinct disadvantage could prohibit deserving students from attending the university and receiving the advantages it offers.

“What you really have to think about are how many brilliant geniuses or Nobel Prize winners are being lost due to the fact that they are born into places where they really don’t have a chance at getting a good public education,” Rush said.

As for the Supreme Court decision’s long-term impact on Washington and Lee, Richmond says the future is not clear, but the university’s goals are.

“We in Admissions and Financial Aid are committed to following the law, this decision, and at the same time, continue to identify the parts of the decision where we can best lean in,” Richmond said

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  • N

    Nelson PattersonSep 29, 2023 at 12:27 pm

    I know the headline author and the writer are not always the same, but there is a big difference between “could decline” and the writer’s assertion it absolutely “will” decline. And while I fully support bringing highly qualified students of every race, gender affiliation, political persuasion, and other relevant diversity measures to W&L, I think Admissions should stop trying to lean on the “easy way out” by relying heavily on established DEI enterprises for targeting students and start recruiting and visiting schools and areas where there are more diverse student populations. Good planning starts with a clear definition of objectives, followed by strategies and tactics that will enable achievement of the objectives.

  • A

    Alex Christensen, '98Sep 26, 2023 at 12:25 am

    It’s time to change the name of the school.

    • R

      Robert Owen ‘88Sep 27, 2023 at 2:53 am

      Changing the name solves nothing but that’s the approach one expects from the Left. It’s time to fire the ignorant children running operations now, and bring back competent adults who understand the difference between a quality school and one focusing on ideology