Up Close and (Not Too) Personal….

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s recent foray into the realm of college admissions, highly selective schools around the country are grappling with the challenge of how to maintain or increase the diversity of their student bodies without explicitly favoring applicants of a certain race (see The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 1st online).

The early results indicate that elite institutions are getting creative.  Here’s a sample of application-essay prompts that schools are now using:

Brown University:  “A lot of people are talking about something called ‘race’ these days.  Our school has a name that evokes images of color, and our mascot is Bruno, a brown bear.  How does that make you feel?  If you were a student at Brown, what brave actions would you take to overcome those feelings if you felt those feelings needed be overcome?  In your answer you can refer to other animals that are noted for their courage if you wish.”   

University of Florida:  “Let’s say that you’re a slave.  Discuss some of the skills you’d hope to develop in that role, and how they might help you succeed in a work-study job at the University of Florida.” 

Bowdoin College:  “Imagine that you are a girl or boy of a non-whitish color who’s being bullied on the playground by a group of other children, some of whom may (or may not) be whitish.  How could you handle this situation in a way that would not be related to, or have implications for, your status as a non-whitish person?  Feel free to use drawings as well as words.”

Stanford University:  “Josh Gibson was a legendary Black baseball player who, due to segregation, never got a chance to play in the Major Leagues. Explain how your reaction to this fact would make a distinctive contribution to the Stanford community, especially its athletic teams.”

Duke University:  “Assume you’re a professor giving a lecture in your Organic Chemistry course when you glance out the window and notice that the student KKK chapter is setting fire to the main library and chanting, ‘D.E.I. deserves to die!’  Would you stop lecturing and attempt to transform this incident into a ‘Teachable Moment’ if it was the last class before the midterm exam?  Why or why not?”

University of Chicago:  “Beyoncé or Taylor Swift: Choose one.  That’s all.  Just choose one.”

Those softly spoken words you hear are the prayers of admissions officers throughout the nation.