In a new video, university leaders discuss how Vanderbilt is responding to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision disallowing the use of race-conscious admissions at colleges and universities.
The court ruled in June that race-conscious admissions practices at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, significantly limiting how colleges and universities across the country may consider race as a factor in their admissions processes going forward.
Vanderbilt will continue to use its long-standing holistic approach to admissions to build diverse incoming classes while complying with this change in federal law, Chancellor Daniel Diermeier said.
“Diversity is essential to a university’s mission, and Vanderbilt will always seek to recruit a wide and deep pool of applicants consistent with our academic mission and our core value of equal opportunity,” he said. “The court’s decision makes it more difficult for universities to create a rich and dynamic campus community. That said, we believe there is still room for Vanderbilt to build diverse incoming classes and comply with the law.”
Ruby Shellaway, Vanderbilt vice chancellor, general counsel and university secretary, lays out in the video some of the Supreme Court’s analysis in making its decision, as well as clarifies and puts into context what it means for universities and prospective students.
“We’re not allowed to use a student’s racial identity standing alone as a factor in admissions,” Shellaway said. “That is the case even if race is just one factor of many that is considered in the holistic admissions process, as we have had at Vanderbilt for many years.
However, universities are not prohibited from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race has affected his or her life. “We can continue to listen to applicants and their guidance counselors who tell us how race has affected the student’s life, but we must assess applicants based on their experiences as individuals and not on the basis of race,” she said.
The university convened a task force earlier this year in anticipation of the Supreme Court decision. The group is working closely with the Office of General Counsel to review the new federal guidelines and will help inform how Vanderbilt adapts its admissions practices. The task force is co-chaired by Douglas L. Christiansen, vice provost for university enrollment affairs and dean of admissions and financial aid, and C. André Christie-Mizell, vice provost for graduate education and dean of the Graduate School.
“Vanderbilt has long employed a holistic admissions process that looks at each individual applicant to assess what skills, perspectives, backgrounds and educational experiences they would bring to our university community,” Christiansen said.
Although Vanderbilt’s admissions process will change, its commitment to creating a diverse campus community will not, he said. “We remain committed to nurturing a diverse academic community in which we can prepare leaders with the tools and perspectives required to engage with the world.”