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Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

Column: GW can prioritize diversity in admissions despite Supreme Court

The 2024-25 admissions season will be the first year without affirmative action at GW in decades after the Supreme Court ended race-conscious admission programs at universities across the country last June.

When six of the court’s justices, five of whom are white, ruled to overturn affirmative action in universities, they agreed with white conservatives to stifle diversity in higher education. Race-blindness in college admissions is another way of simply saying “racial discrimination,” particularly when it comes to Black students.

Affirmative action has long been a controversial policy, but its effects were never quite as extreme as its opponents claimed. In 2020, the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce found Black, Hispanic and Native students were more underrepresented in 2020 than they were in the early 2000s at selective universities. White and Asian students were overrepresented in comparison.

Affirmative action narrowed, but did not close, long-standing divides between Americans of color and white Americans, divides that have existed since the nascence of our country. And race-conscious admissions policies on their own couldn’t address inequities and institutional factors like redlining or the school-to-prison pipeline. But affirmative action did aid in steadily diversifying higher education.

In 2020, the top dozen public universities using affirmative action had an average Black-to-white student graduation rate gap of 6 percent. The top dozen public universities that did not use affirmative action had a 10.1 percent gap. While this percentage may seem menial, it is still an improvement that the court’s ruling now jeopardizes.

U.S. college admissions being race-blind is a direct attack on students from racially marginalized groups who lack access to the same K-12 educational opportunities as white students. In contrast, the practice of race-conscious admissions aims to increase student diversity “in order to enhance the educational experience for all students.”

After the court overturned affirmative action, University President Ellen Granberg, other University officials and the Student Government Association denounced the court’s ruling.

The Office of the Provost also outlined additional strategies GW admissions officers should pursue to increase campus diversity, like creating essay questions that allow students to share more about their identity in addition to prospective student interviews.

While questions that allow students to reveal family obligations like translating or taking care of siblings are a step in the right direction, they don’t fully encompass racialized issues like socioeconomic differences and Black juvenile incarceration rates. These questions are a starting point for an application that will enable students of color to address the systemic barriers they have faced.

GW will also continue to measure an applicant’s “resilience” and “grit.” These tactics are both needed after the court’s decision, but according to experts, they are unlikely to significantly increase diversity and still do not remedy the harm of the impossible feat that is race-blindness.

The admissions office should also consider how an applicant’s cultural background makes them more appealing as a potential student, eliminate legacy admissions and remove barriers for students who have been a part of the criminal justice system because they typically have less eligibility for student loans, grants and work-study funds.

Considering our past and our present, GW must consider how to both increase and retain diversity now that admissions are race-blind — 10.3 percent of GW students were Black in 2023, while D.C.’s population is 45 percent Black.

Former University President Cloyd Heck Marvin was infamous for his racist attitudes and support for racial discrimination in GW’s admissions and on its campus. I still have yet to be in a class that is not majority white, and white faculty severely outnumber Black faculty. Our moniker was only changed from the “Colonials” to the “Revolutionaries” last year, but this does not compensate for the fact that our school’s namesake was a slaveholder — in reality, we also need a new school name.

Do not lose sight of GW’s history of vicious and institutionalized anti-Blackness, especially now that it is paired with race-blind admissions.

Nyla Moxley, a first-year majoring in journalism and mass communication, is an opinions writer.

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