Are student protesters putting college admission at risk?
- The Chronicle of Higher Education examines the growing number of college presidents speaking up in support of prospective students and their rights to protest; a trend that breaks from historical presidential behavior and deeply contrasts with silence from more conservative campuses.
- As scrutiny grows around colleges’ responsiveness to high school students’ activism on gun control, some recruitment officials use the prospect of protest as a recruitment tool for many interested applicants. University of Southern California Director of Undergraduate Admission Kirk Brennan outlined the school’s position in a post on the department’s official blog. "Furthering knowledge requires students and faculty who are willing to share their views and consider others," he wrote. "Therefore, we do not penalize students for speaking up. In fact, we seek them."
- Other institutions, whose officials spoke to the Chronicle anonymously, cited a fear of stoking anger with gun rights activists as the reason why trustees and presidents rejected making statements on admissions policy surrounding pre-enrollment activism. "Our position is that we’re not going to hold it against students, but there’s a fear of announcing it publicly. What a major missed opportunity to make an important statement," said one official in the article.
Trustees, presidents and admissions directors know full well where they are geographically stationed, what the political leanings of their campus and community are, and what the media landscape is surrounding this community. These elements are what dictates if a campus makes an official statement on high school activism, and how the statement should read; not a swell of activity on social media or even peer campuses opting to take a specific position.
There are outliers: Virginia State University President Makola Abdullah tweeted his support for activists and encouraged students seeking opportunities for civic engagement to apply to the institution. While Virginia is increasingly moving away from being a Conservative stronghold toward a more centrist view, the state is home to the NRA headquarters and many of its lawmakers and constituents hold strong views on gun rights and access. But Abdullah is among dozens of presidents from historically black colleges who have committed to encouraging dialog on gun rights, and so his statement affirms an already public position on the issue rather than staking new ground in controversial territory.
Campuses can use their own research, studies, and publications to help in supporting whatever position they opt to take on gun rights, racial tensions, gerrymandering, free speech and other issues which are frequent topics for campus protests. It is far easier for leaders to cite scholarly evidence which backs a position, rather than subjecting the school brand to biased interpretation from students, alumni or activists.
- The Chronicle of Higher Education Why admissions leaders have -Admissions Leaders Have — or Haven’t — Spoken Up for Prospective Protesters
- Education Dive 33 college presidents call for national response to gun violence
- Never Again Colleges Never Again Colleges
- USC Admissions Blog USC Admission will not penalize prospective students who engage in peaceful, political action