Editorials, Opinions

Boston College Must Prioritize Admissions Diversity Efforts After Affirmative Action Decision

Boston College should develop creative solutions to maintain and continue improving diversity on campus after the top court’s decision to axe race-based affirmative action in college admissions. 

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College overturned 45 years of legal precedent by ending race-conscious admissions at universities that receive federal funding, which includes BC. Major Catholic universities such as Georgetown and Notre Dame have made announcements about continuing their commitment to student diversity in response to this decision. Boston College did the same

In August 2022—months prior to the Supreme Court’s decision—BC filed an amicus brief, along with 56 other Catholic colleges and universities, that expressed support for affirmative action at their schools on religious grounds. The brief noted the importance of affirmative action “to build student bodies whose diversity deepens student learning on campus and helps prepare graduates for leadership in an increasingly competitive, multicultural world.” 

By signing this brief, BC put itself at the forefront of progressive and racially inclusive Catholic higher education institutions. University leaders backed up this action with effective comments.

In a response to the decision, University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., said that “the University intends to remain faithful to its Jesuit, Catholic intellectual and religious heritage by enrolling talented, diverse students from across the United States and the world within the new parameters set by the Court.” 

In his statement, Leahy cited BC’s need-based financial aid program and participation in QuestBridge—a nonprofit that connects low-income students with top universities—as ways of ensuring that low-income students of color can attend BC.

Race-conscious admissions accounted for historical underrepresentation of college students in the AHANA+ community. But after the Supreme Court’s decision, there is more BC can do to uphold this value of justice-oriented admissions.

Leahy’s promises are similar to those of leaders at other universities—yet these universities also included more concrete next steps. At Syracuse University (SU), Allen Groves, senior vice president and chief student experience officer, points to “wider geographical outreach and alterations to admissions questions as a means of legally sourcing a diverse class of students.” In a similar vein, Georgetown University has publicized several community initiatives aimed at “investing in the next generation” of students. As the admissions season for the Class of 2028 approaches, the University should clarify its new efforts to retain a high AHANA+ student population. 

Academics have proposed several methods of retaining students of color at major universities. Colleges can recruit from specific ZIP codes with diverse socioeconomic backgrounds in hopes of attracting applicants of color. They can also look out for extracurriculars that students of color frequently lead. The University can also emphasize a supplemental “diversity statement” in its Common Application, as the Court stated that any prospective college student is still free to discuss how “race affected his or her life” in their application. 

The University should consider these methods and others—while also relying on BC’s “strong relationships with community-based organizations”—to recruit future AHANA+ Eagles from across the country.

BC’s mission statement calls for students to seek solutions to the world’s largest problems. A diverse college campus can more effectively highlight these problems and bring unique student talent together to solve them. In the wake of this Supreme Court ruling, the University has a new opportunity to live up to this mission.

September 10, 2023