Editorial: A fuzzy policy

Editorial Board

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The university’s recent change of the need-aware policy’s name to “Meet Full Need” does not hide from the student population this policy’s potential implications. This Editorial Board understands that the administration has faced distressed students whose financial needs have resulted in their inability to enroll or their decision to transfer out of the school. While addressing these situations, the administration seems to be ignoring the rest of the student population whose concerns have been constantly mentioned.

Our major concern is the university’s lack of transparency. In President Barbara R. Synder’s email to the student body, she said, “We believe the Meet Full Need approach will advance both diversity and access. We will assess progress each year to ensure we moving toward both goals.” But how will the approach advance diversity and access? What will you do if underrepresented minorities, the middle class or low-income students are adversely affected?

Last year, Alisha Braves, former president of Case Western Reserve University’s African-American Alumni Association said, “A lot of what I hear in here, based on the comments is because of the distrust of the administration.” That distrust will continue until, and if, the administration responds.

The distrust rests in the fear that when it comes to the 10 percent of applications on the brink of acceptance or being waitlisted, the admissions committee might look more towards a student’s financial abilities than their academic strengths.  

Adding onto that fear is the possibility that we will not see a positive effect of this need-aware policy until years after its implementation. We need some tangible proof that this might actually work, but the evidence we have been given is weak at best. Looking at other experiences outside of the university, there has been great backlash from students whose universities have adopted the need-aware policy – and with good reason.

Schools like Tufts University and Wesleyan University have actually found their population of African American students drop by three percent, as cited in The Observer last year from students who presented this information at the need-aware forum—Tufts: 27 to 24 percent; Wesleyan: 11 to eight percent. At the same time, Vice President for University Marketing and Communications Chris Sheridan wrote in an email that the same schools successfully transitioned to need-aware admissions providing information that showed Wesleyan and Tufts experienced significant drops in their student bodies’ percentages of minorities. However, they were able to regain population statistics similar to those they had seen before the transition to need-aware admissions. After this, though, the diversity of these universities’ populations did not appear to significantly increase.

Furthermore, The New York Times published an article in 2014 comparing universities that used the need-aware policy with universities that didn’t. Their conclusion was that the difference between these two admission methods was “fuzzy.” No clear significance.

We appreciate that the administration values diversity and is including it in the goals of this new policy. However, just its implementation is not enough. As a student body that also values academic integrity, we ask the university to give us more thorough explanations of their admissions process and expectations, so that we do not feel left in the dark.

We need to know that the administration is sincerely recognizing our concerns.