University announces policy changes following SCOTUS affirmative action ruling
A message circulated to the Yale College community on Thursday afternoon shared updates on the undergraduate admissions process and admissions outreach efforts — and announced the dismissal of a 2021 lawsuit over Yale’s admission practices.
Tim Tai, Staff Photographer
In a Thursday afternoon email, Dean of Yale College Pericles Lewis and Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Jeremiah Quinlan offered the Yale community an update about the University’s efforts to promote campus diversity since the Supreme Court’s June ruling against race-conscious admissions.
According to the message, the University has been taking steps to continue attracting students from underrepresented backgrounds and promoting a culture of diversity and inclusivity while complying with the law. Per the email, these steps include updates to Yale’s undergraduate admissions process, an expanded admissions outreach plan, new talent pipelines and a commitment to supporting a culture of belonging.
“The most important message I want people to hear is that even if the law has changed, our values have not,” Quinlan told the News. “We still want to be attracting students from underrepresented backgrounds to Yale, even if the law around how we consider them in the process has changed.”
The email opened by announcing the dismissal of a 2021 lawsuit filed against the University by Students for Fair Admissions, or SFFA, the plaintiff in the cases against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. SFFA decided to dismiss the lawsuit, the message explained, after learning of the changes the University has made to comply with the SCOTUS ruling.
Among these changes are several updates to Yale College’s admissions process, including “extensive” new training for admissions officers on how to evaluate applications without access to a student’s self-identified race.
“[The new training] is going to be a significant undertaking for a very experienced staff like that at Yale,” Quinlan told the News. “I think it’s going to be a challenge. But I think we are up for the challenge in the Yale Admissions Office.”
Quinlan added that the trainings, which began this week, are set to continue past the November early action deadline and through the end of the 2023-24 admissions cycle.
The message also pointed to the new application essay prompts for the current admissions cycle.
This year, students will respond to one of three short-answer questions. Students can write about a time they discussed an important issue with someone holding an opposing view, reflect on their membership in a community or describe an enriching element of their personal experience.
“We believe these questions will invite students from all backgrounds to reflect on the experiences that have shaped their character and strengths,” the email read.
A final announced change will incorporate place-based data from The Opportunity Atlas, an interactive tool that measures the relationship between geographic location and economic mobility, in Yale’s undergraduate admissions process.
The use of the Opportunity Atlas tool will supplement the admissions office’s existing use of the College Board’s Landscape tool, which provides data about an applicant’s high school and neighborhood.
The admissions office’s adoption of the Opportunity Atlas and its continued use of Landscape is intended to provide a more “consistent, data driven way” to understand students’ backgrounds, explained Mark Dunn ’07, the senior associate director for outreach and recruitment at the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.
“I’ll make very clear, this is not a proxy for race,” Dunn told the News. “We have done no research that looks backwards at the racial composition of applicants or admitted students based on any Opportunity Atlas pieces. We are not using it as a way to get around the prohibition on the use of race. We think, though, that this is a good moment when we are losing one piece of information, to be gaining another different piece of information that is valuable for us and our process.”
While Thursday’s email outlined several tangible changes to Yale’s admissions practices, commentary on certain policies was absent from the communication.
YCC President Julian Suh-Toma ’25 told the News that while he felt “proud” of the University’s efforts to continue to promote equity and inclusion, he hopes to see communication soon on Yale’s test-optional policy and its use of legacy admissions — particularly involvement of Yale’s primary cultural advocacy groups: the Asian American Students Alliance, the Native and Indigenous Student Association at Yale, the Black Student Alliance at Yale, Mecha de Yale and the Middle Eastern and North African Student Association.
“While we pursue other changes to admissions, we hope that Yale will remain test optional, increasing accessibility for students of all backgrounds,” Suh-Toma wrote to the News. “We also urge the administration to consider the YCC’s previously stated demand to eliminate legacy admissions.”
Beyond updating its process, the admissions office announced in the message a continued commitment to expanding its efforts to reach students from underrepresented backgrounds.
Yale’s admissions process, according to the email, begins before any applications are read with outreach efforts to ensure that the applicant pool includes high-achieving students from a breadth of backgrounds.
“We’ve seen an incredible diversification in our applicant pool, both in terms of strength and numbers of students applying who identify as Black, Latinx and Native,” Quinlan told the News. “Part of that is because of the K-12 education pipeline diversifying in this country, but also because of the [outreach] work that the Yale Admissions Office has done, and we need to redouble those efforts.”
Driving the office’s goals to expand its recruitment reach, Dunn explained, is its plan to hire two new full-time staff members who will work primarily on outreach.
Examples of outreach initiatives the office hopes to expand in the future include widening participation in the Multicultural Open House, increasing the reach of the Ambassadors Program and launching new outreach efforts through Small Town and Rural Students (STARS) College Network.
Dunn explained that, with the addition of these two new hires, the office will also be able to further commit itself to long-term initiatives to build a pipeline of high-achieving applicants from diverse backgrounds, a goal delineated in the email.
Quinlan explained that pipeline-building is distinct from outreach. While outreach initiatives focus on prospective students in their junior and senior years of high school, pipeline building initiatives are longer-term, focusing on high school freshmen and sophomores.
Examples of these initiatives include expanding early educational outreach to students in eighth to 10th grades, developing a college preparatory summer program for high-achieving students from underrepresented backgrounds within the next two years and developing programming with Yale Pathways and New Haven Promise.
“We really feel that, at this moment, it is incumbent upon Yale and all of us to really think about investing in being at the table for college prep for students from minoritized, low-income and first-generation backgrounds,” Dunn said. “We can and should do something meaningful in this space, and it’s not just about the pool of applicants to Yale College. We think we have a greater role to play. And finding the right way to do that is something that we want to continue to grow.”
The email concluded with a reaffirmation of the University’s commitment to attracting, welcoming and supporting students from all backgrounds. It pointed to Yale’s four cultural centers, as well as the newly established Office of Educational Opportunity, as means for supporting a culture of belonging at Yale.
These efforts are all continuing to develop, Lewis and Quinlan explained in the email, pointing to a webpage where future updates would be posted.
“Our priorities today remain unchanged from June: fully complying with the law, continuing to support a diverse and inclusive community, and maintaining a world-class admissions process that considers each applicant as an individual,” the email from Lewis and Quinlan read. “We are confident we can preserve these priorities going forward.”
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